That Boris speech: What he said and what he really means

PUBLISHED: 16:13 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:13 14 February 2018

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivers his speech - "road to Brexit, a United Kingdom", as part of the government's road map on Brexit, at the Policy Exchange, London.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivers his speech - "road to Brexit, a United Kingdom", as part of the government's road map on Brexit, at the Policy Exchange, London.

PA Wire/PA Images

We got stag parties, carrots and vacuum cleaners – but what was Boris Johnson actually talking about?

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wipes sweat from his brow as he delivers his speech - Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wipes sweat from his brow as he delivers his speech - "road to Brexit, a United Kingdom", as part of the government's road map on Brexit, at the Policy Exchange, London.

The Foreign Secretary blustered through a chaotic, back-of-a-fag packet Brexit speech – one we had been promised would bring we Remainers onside over quitting the EU. Far from it Boris.

The gags were lame, the delivery was ramshackle but worst of all he did little to allay any fears. If anything this rambling performance must surely have the country asking: “Why does this man have any power whatsoever?”

Here, our friends at Open Britain compare what he said to what he actually means:

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivers his speech - "road to Brexit, a United Kingdom", as part of the government's road map on Brexit, at the Policy Exchange, London.Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivers his speech - "road to Brexit, a United Kingdom", as part of the government's road map on Brexit, at the Policy Exchange, London.

Deregulation

What he said today: “To understand why EU regulation is not always suited to the economic needs of the UK, it is vital to understand that EU law is a special type of law, unlike anything else on earth. It is not just about business convenience. It is expressly teleological. It is there to achieve a political goal.”

What he means: We know from what he has said previously that this is code for deregulating the economy and lowering employment and environmental protections.

He has long campaigned to “scrap” the social chapter: “Boil it down to the single market. Scrap the social chapter.” (December 4, 2012)

“There is little doubt that it is that extra stuff, the stuff from Brussels, that is helping to fur the arteries to the point of sclerosis. The weight of employment regulation is now back-breaking: the collective redundancies directive, the atypical workers directive, the working time directive and a thousand more.” Boris Johnson, 6 June 2014

And he has talked about how Brexit is “an opportunity” to deregulate the economy: “[Brexit] will be an opportunity for this country to get rid of some of the burdensome regulation that has accreted over the last 44 years.” (March 28, 2017)

NHS

What he said today: “Freed from EU regimes, we will not only be able to spend some of our Brexit bonus on the NHS; but as we develop new stem cell technology – in which this country has long been in the lead – it may be that we will need a regulatory framework, scrupulous and moral, but not afraid of the new.”

What he means: There was no mention of the £350m a week extra for the NHS that he promised during the referendum campaign.

He has already betrayed millions of people by going back on this pledge by voting against giving the NHS an extra £350m a week in the House of Commons.

The reality is that Boris Johnson doesn’t care about the NHS, as he has shown by advocating privatisation: “If NHS services continue to be free in this way, they will continue to be abused like any free service...if people have to pay for them, they will value them more.” (Boris Johnson, 2003)

Northern Ireland

What he said today: Absolutely nothing.

What he means: He has nothing to say about why he is campaigning in Cabinet to take the UK out of the Customs Union when this will jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement settlement.

He promised during the referendum there would be “no change” in Northern Ireland, but now has nothing to say about how that can be achieved while leaving the Customs Union.

“I think the situation would be absolutely unchanged.” Boris Johnson, 29 February 2016

“The whole thing about the customs union and the technical difficulties is all being turned by great superstition into the equivalent of the millennium bug.” (July 28 2017)

Trade Deals

What he said today: “It is only by taking back control of our laws that UK firms and entrepreneurs will have the freedom to innovate, without the risk of having to comply with some directive devised by Brussels, at the urgings of some lobby group, with the aim of holding back a UK competitor. That would be intolerable, undemocratic, and would make it all but impossible for us to do serious free trade deals.”

What he means: Again, when Boris Johnson talks about “the freedom to innovate”, he means deregulation and scrapping vital protections for workers and the environment.

Boris Johnson has said he sees “all kinds of opportunities” in a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal, despite concerns that such a deal would mean the UK accepting imports of chlorine-washed chicken and hormone beef, as well as concerns about opening up the NHS to private US healthcare companies.

Environmental Protections

What he said today: “We can simplify planning, and speed up public procurement, and perhaps we would then be faster in building the homes young people need; and we might decide that it was indeed absolutely necessary for every environmental impact assessment to monitor two life cycles of the snail and build special swimming pools for newts.”

What he means: Boris Johnson’s mockery of environmental impact assessment shows clearly the real agenda of Brexit, despite all the crowing about a supposed ‘Green Brexit’ from people like the Environment Secretary Michael Gove: they want to scrap environmental protections wholesale.

It is utterly ludicrous to blame the EU for his own Government’s failure to build enough houses. Domestic housing policy is not something over which the EU has any influence.

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