BORIS JOHNSON: Britain will NEVER, repeat NEVER, rejoin the EU. Instead of appearing embarrassed by Brexit, the Tories need to champion it, exploit its benefits – and explain why leaving was brave, remarkable and right
So what did I tell you? I remember that in 2016 we were all having a lively debate about what would happen if we left the EU.
There were some people who were specifically worried about the risk to UK participation in Horizon — an EU-sponsored scientific collaboration.
Brexit would be a disaster, they said, for scientific exchange. No more EU-funded conferences in lovely European cities; no more joint papers with boffins from other European universities; no more British participation in joint European breakthroughs.
I must say that I was a bit sceptical about all this — and said so at the time. It did not seem to me that the domain of scientific endeavour and research was confined to the EU. Of the top ten universities in Europe, seven are in the UK, one is in Switzerland — and only two are in the EU. Scientific partnerships are as global and instant as the internet.
In any case, I simply couldn’t understand why leaving the EU would mean leaving projects like Horizon, assuming we wanted to stay in. Horizon wasn’t political. It wasn’t part of a great legislative project to create a United States of Europe. To be part of Horizon, you didn’t need to be a member of the EU single market or customs union, or to sign up to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The UK was a massive financial contributor to the project. Our research was world-class.
Who would be so crazy as to kick the UK out of Horizon? Well, it turned out that I underestimated the pettiness of our friends and partners. They temporarily decided to terminate UK membership — even though they wanted and needed us in. Now I am delighted to say that they have relented, and we are back in, and quite right, too.
It’s what we Brexiteers always said would happen, and should happen. We said that you could get the best of both worlds — leave the EU but continue with partnerships and collaboration of all kinds. QED, as they say in the academic world.
Rejoining Horizon is what we Brexiteers always said would happen, writes BORIS JOHNSON. We said that you could get the best of both worlds — leave the EU but continue with partnerships and collaboration of all kinds
Rejoining Ursula von der Leyen’s EU is not the solution for any significant problem that the UK currently faces
It is fascinating to see how this sensible development, on which I congratulate the Government, has excited the glands of those who always opposed Brexit.
You see! they are saying. It’s the beginning of the end of this crazed experiment. We are gradually going back in, they say. First it was the Windsor Framework, which locks Northern Ireland into parts of the single market and therefore makes it more difficult (though not impossible) for the rest of the UK to diverge from EU law.
Now we are back in Horizon. It may be relatively trivial, but it’s a signal, they say — a message about the direction of travel, of things to come. Soon, they hope, there will be a Labour government, and Sir Keir Starmer will take us back into the single market and customs union — or at least back into regulatory orbit.
Soon the UK will be back on bended knee, pledging to obey the rules of the club, even if we are not yet full members. I saw that the former chairman of the Remain campaign, the amiable Stuart Rose, was out on the airwaves the other day, prophesying that Britain would rejoin the EU.
Well, I am here to tell you, and Lord Rose, that it isn’t going to happen. Ever. To rejoin the EU would mean — according to EU rules — that we had to scrap the pound, sign up to the euro and abandon national control of monetary and, logically, fiscal policy as well.
That is simply never going to happen. To rejoin the EU would mean paying even more to Brussels than we were before, and signing up to the goal of a federal Europe.
No British government would ever accept it. And rejoining the EU is not, repeat NOT, the solution for any significant problem that the UK currently faces. It will not make the UK more competitive. Rejoining the EU will not solve our productivity problems. It will not help us tackle the skills gap, or fix the housing market, or help us to cut the absurd cost of infrastructure in this country.
On the contrary, it would make things worse, depriving us of regulatory freedom before we have even had a chance to use it.
Rishi Sunak hailed ‘the right deal for the country’ as Britain rejoined the Horizon project
I said it a few weeks ago, but I will say it again: look at the difference in growth rates between Europe and the United States, economies that used to be roughly equal in size. In the past 15 years the U.S. — with 100 million fewer people — has overtaken the EU so fast that American GDP is now nearly 50 per cent bigger than the whole Eurozone.
Why would we want to reshackle ourselves to a model that is so manifestly failing?
The other day I was in Sao Paulo, where I talked to the governor of the state, Tarcisio de Freitas. He seemed to be highly popular and successful, and he had a dynamic and free-market agenda. He wanted to emulate the UK’s privatisation experiment. He wanted to do a free trade deal with us. Tarcisio told me that he is a big fan of Brexit, and sees massive potential for the UK-Brazil relationship — and he is right.
We need to remember, and this Brexit Government needs to remind the world, what Brexit has already done. Yes, it was because we were out of the EU that the UK felt able to go faster than the European Medicines Agency — so that this was the first country in the world to put a licensed and effective Covid vaccine into someone’s arm.
Yes, it was because we were out of the EU that we were able to risk the wrath of other partners, and do the far-sighted AUKUS defence pact with the United States and Australia.
And yes, it was because we were outside the EU that we were able to take a lead in backing Ukraine with military support — a foreign policy area that we had mysteriously subcontracted, while in the EU, to France and Germany.
It is thanks to the proper Brexit delivered, with such huge effort, by this Conservative Government, that we are now able to do things differently — in fields from finance to bioscience. We have done something brave and remarkable and right — and we need to talk it up, explain it, champion it; not somehow give the impression that we are embarrassed by the decision of the British people.
Time after time our Olympians show the world that we excel in all sorts of sports — cycling, swimming, sprinting, you name it. With a population of only 0.84 per cent of the world, we come behind only America or China in the table of medals.
But there is one sport at which we are currently all-round global champions — and that is running ourselves down.
Of course, we can continue to partner our EU friends in science and all kinds of other things, but we took a decision to leave the EU — and there is no going back. We have it in our hands to make it a triumphant success — so let’s get on with it.
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