I don't see why we're taking Boris Johnson seriously on Brexit, says Yvette Cooper

PUBLISHED: 10:00 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:00 14 February 2018

Boris Johnson and his Brexit campaign bus promising £350m extra a week for the NHS

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Boris Johnson's keynote Brexit speech should not be taken seriously "given everything he said about that bus", former Labour minister Yvette Cooper has said.

The foreign secretary is expected to insist that leaving the bloc is a cause for hope, not fear, as he sets out his vision for a post-Brexit Britain.

To make Brexit a success, supporters must "reach out to those who still have anxieties", he will urge.

But Labour former minister Yvette Cooper, now chair of the Commons Home Affairs committee, dismissed his comments and called on the government to focus on detail rather than rhetoric.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she said: "The problem with that is, from the point of view of a committee chair, we've got this speech being made which doesn't seem to set out any detail.

"The government cannot keep kicking the can down the road, we've got to actually have some practical details on it.

"To be honest, given everything he said about that bus, I don't really see why we're taking him seriously at all."

Despite briefings that Mr Johnson's speech would be aimed at "reconciliation", the foreign secretary is expected to brand Remainers' calls "intolerable and undemocratic" and that efforts to reverse Brexit would lead to "permanent feelings of betrayal" across Britain.

He is also expected to dismiss the fears of Remainers as "unfounded" and claim that it would be a "disastrous mistake" for Britain to remain in the EU.

And he will also reject any trade deal which requires Britain to align with EU regulations. Chancellor Philip Hammond and Brexit secretary David Davis have previously said Britain could trade on present terms in some sectors to preserve access to EU markets after Brexit.

But Mr Johnson will rule this out, saying: “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 some lobby group with the aim of holding back a UK competitor.

"That would be intolerable, undemocratic and make it all but impossible for us to do serious trade deals.”

In remarks being seen as a reference to Conservative MPs such as Anna Soubry, he will warn that “some people are becoming ever more determined to stop Brexit, to reverse the vote of June 23, 2016, and to frustrate the will of the people”.

He will add: “I believe that would be a disastrous mistake that would lead to permanent and ineradicable feelings of betrayal. We cannot and will not let it happen.”

Ahead of Mr Johnson's speech, Swedish ambassador to the UK Torbjorn Sohlstrom warned that red lines did not "marry with friction-free trade".

He said: "It's clear that if Britain will indeed leave both the customs union and the single market and perhaps take some distance from EU rules and regulations, there will be, I think, a degree of friction in the trade.

"There are strong incentives on each side to find a good arrangement and we will try to be as constructive as possible to achieve that sort of outcome, but I don't think it will be that easy.

"The British government has set up a couple of red lines that is not so easy to marry with friction-free trade."

Mr Johnson's speech is the first in a series by senior Cabinet ministers over the coming weeks. The prime minister will travel to Munich for a speech on security arrangements on Saturday.

Further speeches will be delivered by David Davis, the Brexit secretary (on how Britain’s businesses will maintain high standards), Cabinet Office minister David Lidington (on the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and international trade secretary and disgraced former defence secretary Liam Fox (on how the UK will forge new trade deals).

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour will today focus on the rights of tenants to keep a pet in their properties.

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