Boris Johnson: Britain must not become a vassal state after Brexit

Posted On: 
17th December 2017

Boris Johnson has warned the UK could become a “vassal state” if it fails to reject EU laws after Brexit.

Boris Johnson said the UK must be able to "do things in a distinctive way" after Brexit
PA Images

In a sign of the Cabinet rows to come over the future of Britain’s trade relationships once it quits the EU, the Foreign Secretary said he was planning a fresh intervention this week to push for a “liberal Brexit”.

It comes after Philip Hammond angered anti-EU Tory MPs by saying the UK would “effectively replicate the status quo” during the two year transition phase after March 2019.

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Meanwhile, Britain has vowed to match EU rules on areas that affect the Good Friday Agreement in a bid to ensure the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains open.

A special Brexit war Cabinet will meet tomorrow to hammer out what relationship the UK should have with the EU after Brexit. The full Cabinet will then meet on Tuesday.

Mr Johnson - who alongside Brexit ally Michael Gove is a member of the smaller Cabinet group - said the Prime Minister must ensure the UK can “maximise the benefits of Brexit”.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, he said Mrs May had done a “fantastic job” securing the green light on Friday from EU leaders to move Brexit talks onto the future trade deal.

But he said any deal must give Britain “that important freedom to decide our own regulatory framework, our own laws and do things in a distinctive way”.

He said if the UK was forced to mirror EU laws, many people “would say, ‘What is the point of what you have achieved?’ because we would have gone from a member state to a vassal state”.

The Cabinet is reportedly split between those who want to keep tightly to EU rules - like Mr Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd - and those who want to push further away.

But Mr Johnson said even Mr Hammond would want some level of divergence - pointing to the recent Budget and the Chancellor's desire to boost the UK tech sector.

“It was very notable in the Budget speech that the Chancellor majored on the idea of future regulatory divergence,” Mr Johnson said.

“Philip can see that we have a very original economy... we may in future wish to regulate it in a different way from the way that Brussels does.”


But an EU official told the Mail on Sunday: “Unless you are North Korea, there is no such thing as absolute sovereignty in the modern world.

“Mr Gove and Mr Johnson can go whistle if they think they will be able to deregulate the UK and have a trade deal with the EU after Brexit.”

According to the Sunday Times, Mr Gove and allies will argue tomorrow that the UK must abandon the EU working time directive - which protects employees from working more than 48 hours in a week.