Brexit advocate Boris Johnson hails EU in unseen column

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, speaking to the media in London, 14 July 2016. [Foreign and Commonwealth Office / Flickr]

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote an article urging that Britain stay in the EU just days before becoming the chief campaigner for Brexit, the Sunday Times newspaper reported.

In the previously unseen column, Johnson asserted that remaining in the European Union would be “a boon for the world and for Europe”.

He warned that Brexit could lead to “economic shock” and the breakup of the union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, in the text revealed in a new book by the newspaper’s political editor Tim Shipman, entitled “All Out War”.

Then there is “the Putin factor”, Johnson wrote, adding: “We don’t want to do anything to encourage more shirtless swaggering from the Russian leader, not in the Middle East, not anywhere.”

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

The column was penned just two days before the shock announcement in February that Johnson would head the “Leave” campaign, according to the Sunday Times.

It said he wrote the piece “as a way of clarifying his thoughts”, before composing a final article arguing the case for Brexit, published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper in March.

In the pro-EU column, Johnson supports membership of the European single market, which this week he described as “increasingly useless”.

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

“Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?”

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‘Wrestling with the issue’

The politician also made an emotional plea to voters to consider the impact of Brexit on future generations, writing: “Shut your eyes. Hold your breath. Think of Britain. Think of the rest of the EU. Think of the future.”

The foreign secretary, said he had been trying to “make an alternative case” to himself.

Responding to the publication, Johnson told journalists outside his London home that he had been “wrestling with the issue” in February and wrote a long article that was “overwhelmingly in favour of leaving” the EU.

“I then thought I had better see if I could try and make an alternative case to myself so I wrote a kind of semi-parodic article in the opposite sense,” he said.

“I set them side by side and it was blindingly obvious what the right thing to do was. And I think the people made the right decision.”

Johnson’s campaign to leave the EU ultimately ended in Britain voting in favour of Brexit by 52 to 48% on June 23.

Since then the pound has fallen 18% against the dollar and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has outlined her plans for a new referendum on Scottish independence.

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced earlier this month her government will trigger Article 50, to start negotiations to leave the EU, by the end of March 2017.

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