Boris Johnson feared 'economic shock' of Brexit, pro-EU column reveals

Posted On: 
16th October 2016

Boris Johnson’s article setting out reasons to stay in the European Union has been published for the first time, revealing the Foreign Secretary thought there would be an “economic shock” from Brexit. 

Boris Johnson was appointed Foreign Secretary after the EU referendum
PA Images

Before announcing his support for the Leave campaign in February, Mr Johnson wrote two columns laying out the arguments for both sides as a way of clarifying his thoughts.

The Sunday Times has published the pro-Remain piece this morning, showing the Conservative MP had concerns about the impact of Brexit on the Union, the “Putin factor” and the UK’s role in the world.

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He also echoed warnings about leaving the single market, writing: “Britain is a great nation, a global force for good. It is surely a boon for the world and for Europe that she should be intimately engaged in the EU.

“This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms: the membership fee seems rather small for all that access.

“Why are we so determined to turn our back on it? Shouldn’t our policy be like our policy on cake — pro having it and pro eating it? Pro Europe and pro the rest of the world?”

He said that “half the time” he felt like leaving the EU, but the other half he was preoccupied by some of the “downsides” of Brexit.

“There are some big questions that the Out side need to answer,” he wrote.  

“Almost everyone expects there to be some sort of economic shock as a result of a Brexit. How big would it be? I am sure that the doomsters are exaggerating the fallout — but are they completely wrong? And how can we know?

“And then there is the worry about Scotland, and the possibility that an English-only ‘Leave’ vote could lead to the break-up of the union. There is the Putin factor: we don’t want to do anything to encourage more shirtless swaggering from the Russian leader, not in the Middle East, not anywhere.”

His pro-EU column also included his concerns about David Cameron’s negotiation with Brussels, saying it was “not a fundamental reform of Britain’s position in the EU”.

The account comes from a forthcoming book by Sunday Times journalist Tim Shipman called ‘All Out War’.