Boris Johnson offering ‘intellectually impossible’ Brexit vision after customs union claim

Posted On: 
16th November 2016

Boris Johnson’s vision for Britain’s future outside of the European Union is “intellectually impossible”, a leading EU finance minister has declared.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson went off script in an interview with a Czech newspaper
PA Images

The Foreign Secretary went off message yesterday when he told a Czech newspaper the UK would probably leave the customs unions post-Brexit while “maintaining free trade” with EU states.

He is also reported as saying it is “bollocks” to claim freedom of movement is a fundamental right for EU citizens as he insisted Brexit will allow the UK to regain control of its borders.

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Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said such a circumstance “doesn’t exist” and Mr Johnson was putting forward options that “are not available”.

"He's saying things that are intellectually impossible, politically unavailable, so I think he's not offering the British people a fair view of what is available and what can be achieved in these negotiations," he told BBC Newsnight.

Mr Dijsselbloem, who is president of the eurozone’s Eurogroup, said the UK “will be outside the internal market and there will be some hindrances” to trade.

While currently the UK enjoys unfettered access to European markets, some of that “will disappear” post-Brexit, he said.

"There is no win-win situation. It's going to be a lose-lose situation and in the best case if we set aside all emotions and try to reach an agreement that is least damaging to both of us we can minimise the damages," he added.

"We can do our best to minimise damages but it's going to be a step back and that is what Boris Johnson should start talking about."

No 10 said a decision on membership of the customs union had not been made.


Speaking to Hospodářské Noviny , Mr Johnson insisted the freedom to move between EU member states was not part of the Treaty of Rome, which set up the then European Economic Community.

He said: "It's a total myth - nonsense. It is stupid to say that freedom of movement is a fundamental right. It's something that has been acquired by a series of decisions by the courts.

"And everyone now has in his head that every human being has a fundamental, God-given right to go and move wherever he wants. But it is not. 

"It was never a founding principle of the European Union. It's a complete myth. Total myth."

The leading Brexiteer added: "The idea that freedom of movement is a fundamental right of the EU is just bollocks."

Mr Johnson said Britain wanted to maintain access to the European single market, but added: "We'll probably have to leave the customs union, but it is a question that will be discussed.

"I believe it can be done while maintaining free trade and growing [the] European economy. What do our citizens want? They want growth, they want jobs, they want the opportunity to travel."