London (AFP) – British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will on Wednesday attempt to heal divisions between UK europhiles and those backing his own pro-Brexit stance, kick-starting a series of high-profile speeches on leaving the EU.
Johnson was one of the driving forces behind the campaign to see Britain leave the European Union and he has been one of the country’s most vocal Brexiteers since the 2016 referendum which backed the move.
But in a London speech on Wednesday he will urge people to “reach out to those who still have anxieties” about leaving the bloc.
“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,” he will say, according to extracts released by the foreign ministry.
Johnson will, however, also fall back on phrases often used by the pro-Brexit side, accusing some people of attempting to “frustrate the will of the people” and stop Britain leaving the EU.
“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,” he will say.
The foreign minister’s intervention will be followed on Saturday by a speech from Prime Minister Theresa May.
Speeches by three other key cabinet ministers will follow over the subsequent two weeks, after which May will make a second address to the nation.
Brexit Secretary David Davis will discuss business standards, Cabinet Officer minister David Lidington will talk about devolution, while Trade Secretary Liam Fox will detail future global trade deal strategy, according to May’s Downing Street office.
Johnson’s upcoming address was described as “hypocrisy of the highest order” by opposition lawmaker Chuka Umunna.
“Boris Johnson is totally unqualified to preach about the perils of fear and betrayal when he engaged in disgraceful scaremongering,” during the referendum campaign, the lawmaker said in a statement issued by the pro-EU campaign group Open Britain.