If you were one of the many people who thought London Mayor Boris Johnson was a Tory eurosceptic, a man actively cheering for this country to stand on its own, free of the petty constraints of Brussels and the demands of EU regulation, then you wouldn’t be lacking for company. You would also be wrong.
In an interview published yesterday in Der Spiegel magazine in Germany, Johnson has come out and revealed that the UK is very much a part of Europe with its destiny inextricably linked to the countries on the other side of the Channel. Here is what he said when pushed on the subject of whether or not he has any personal animosity towards Europe:
“Look, we can’t leave Europe. We’re part of the European Continent. What is the English Channel? It’s a primeval river that got slightly too big. The Thames and the Seine are both tributaries of the same large river. We’re always going to be a part of Europe psychologically. The trouble is that the euro and the euro zone have taken over so much emotional and intellectual energy of the people running the community. This is a real shame. Europe should be about so much more. I think we need to focus on other things that are good for our populations. I believe in the free market of services and all those things.”
Ah yes, let’s all focus on the good. Johnson’s affection for the EU has, up until now, been well hidden. Just a few weeks ago the occasion of his first Commons speech for seven years was used to outline a “glorious” future outside the 28-nation trading bloc. In doing so he positioned himself to lead the ‘No’ campaign in the EU referendum after warning the UK must be prepared for ‘Brexit’.
Earlier this month he used his column in The Daily Telegraph to write: “When you look at the cost of EU social policy, the stagnation of the EU economies, the continuing absurdities of some Brussels regulation, we are plainly getting to the stage where it might well be better to quit an unreformed EU than to stay in.”
Taking those two examples alone – and there are many, many more – Boris Johnson has never failed to position himself as somebody quick to call the EU out.
Lest anyone be in any doubt about his latest position, a quick return to the interview in Der Spiegel should make it clear that in the mind of the member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the UK is very much on board with EU membership. Asked ‘Would you not regret it if Great Britain left the EU?’ Johnson replied:
“My ideal world is, we’re there, we’re in the EU, trying to make it better. We don’t need the European Union to tell us how many hours we can work, we don’t need all this health and safety stuff. Brussels should get back to the great principle of Cassis de Dijon — mutual recognition, not harmonisation. I hope our German friends will take us very seriously during this reform process.”
Spoken like a man who has made up his mind. At least until he changes it again.