In a first of a series of major speeches by senior Cabinet ministers, Johnson will say stopping Brexit would be a “betrayal.” In his speech ‘The Road to Brexit: A United Kingdom’ pro-Leave Johnson will issue a call to Leavers and Remainers to move on from divisions of the past.
The foreign secretary will try to build bridges with his opponents by saying leaving the EU is “not grounds for fear, but hope,” and urge Brexiteers to “reach out to those who still have anxieties.”
According to excerpts released in advance of his speech, Johnson will say: “I want to try today to anatomize at least [some] fears and show to the best of my ability that they are unfounded, and that the very opposite is usually true: that Brexit is not grounds for fear but hope.”
He is also set to issue a warning. “I fear that some people are becoming ever more determined to stop Brexit… I believe that would be a disastrous mistake that would lead to permanent and ineradicable feelings of betrayal. We cannot and will not let that happen.”
Johnson’s opponents are not convinced, however. His betrayal comments have triggered a backlash from MPs, who accuse him of hypocrisy.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna MP, a leading supporter of pro-Remain group Open Britain, said Johnson was engaged in “disgraceful scaremongering” during the referendum campaign, and that he was “totally unqualified to preach about the perils of fear and betrayal.”
Umunna tweeted: “Boris Johnson, the man who promised £350m extra per week for the NHS if the UK voted to Leave in 2016 then voted against it in 2017, is lecturing the country on the perils of ‘betrayal’ in 2018, whilst a member of a cabinet presiding over an NHS crisis. You couldn’t make it up.”
The Labour peer, Andrew Adonis, said people were trying to stop Brexit because they believed it would be an economic disaster. “Johnson lied to the British people about Brexit and its benefits two years ago, including £350m a week for the NHS on the side of his bus,” Lord Adonis told the Guardian. While also tweeting his opposition.
Boris speech tomorrow typical bluster. Time to unite …. behind him and his bunch of charlatans. We are in this mess because his motto was the most infamous line in Milton: ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven’
— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) February 13, 2018
“The feelings of betrayal are against him, Farage and Rees-Mogg — which is why the campaign for a referendum on his Brexit deal is gathering pace. The greatest national success now would be to stop Brexit, eject Johnson from office, and install a government determined to promote trade, prosperity and security with our European partners — and not undermine them, as he is doing.”
Johnson will also claim that Brexit could open the door to an outward-facing, liberal and global Britain. However, he will say that a major mistake of the past was that pro-EU voices too often ignored those who opposed membership of the European bloc and he will say ministers must not repeat that.
“It is not good enough to say to remainers — you lost, get over it, because we must accept that many are actuated by entirely noble sentiments, a real sense of solidarity with our European neighbours and a desire for the UK to succeed.”
Johnson’s is the first in a series of speeches by Theresa May and her ministers on the “road to Brexit.”
The Prime Minister is expected to address the UK’s future relations with the EU in a speech in Munich on Saturday, the day after she holds talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
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