Boris Johnson to go ahead with Theresa May's much-mocked Festival of Brexit

PUBLISHED: 14:20 31 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:20 31 July 2019

Festival of Brexit Britain (Image: Martin Rowson)

Festival of Brexit Britain (Image: Martin Rowson)

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Boris Johnson's government is to go ahead with Theresa May's widely-pilloried plans for a £120m festival to celebrate Brexit, it has confirmed.

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The former prime minister announced bizarre plans for a "festival of Brexit Britain" at the start of the Tory party conference last October, claiming the event, scheduled for 2022, would showcase the best of the UK's talent in business, technology, arts and sport.

The government rather optimistically said it hoped that the celebrations would lead to a repeat of the boost the country gained from the 2012 London Olympics through construction, tourism and trade.

But it was widely mocked, with Twitter users suggesting it could involve games of pin the blame on a Remainer and workshops on cooking chlorinated chicken and buying unregulated medicine on eBay.

And more seriously there were warnings it could risk stirring up tensions in Ireland, as the festival - officially titled the Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - will coincide with not only the formation of the Irish Free State, but also the start of the Irish Civil War, which erupted in the wake of partition.

But the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, now under one-time Remainer Nicky Morgan, has confirmed that it will still go ahead as planned.

A spokesperson told The New European: "We are continuing to work on delivering a national celebration in 2022 that showcases the UK's unique strengths in creativity and innovation.

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"Further details about the festival will be made public in due course."

The proposal is said to have been inspired by the 1851 Great Exhibition during Queen Victoria's reign, and also the post-war festival of Britain in 1951.

It was originally put forward by leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said that it would be a "huge celebration" of Britain leaving the EU.

David Lammy, the Labour MP and anti-Brexit campaigner, tweeted: "Theresa May's £120 million "Festival of Brexit Britain" is historically illiterate. The Labour government's 1951 Festival of Britain marked a new era of growth and international cooperation. The opposite of where this Tory government is taking us."

And British Future, led by former Fabian society director Sunder Katwala, said he feared it had "the worst possible timing".

He said: "Holding a Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2022, on the centenary of Ireland's partition and civil war, would be the worst possible timing.

"It is only likely to heighten tensions between communities - and that's before we know Brexit's implications for the border.

"Right across the UK, a festival so closely associated with Brexit may only reinforce divides when it could be bridging them."

Announcing the festival, May said the it would strengthen "our precious Union".

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