Is Boris wriggling out of pledge to axe payments to EU?

by Hugo Dixon | 01.10.2016

Boris Johnson persuaded the voters to leave the EU by making a series of false promises. One by one, the foreign secretary appears to be backing away from them.

The latest was his pledge to axe payments to the EU. This was one of Vote Leave’s most potent commitments – backed up by the lie that we send the EU £350 million a week. Johnson’s battle bus said: “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.”

Every part of this statement is now coming unstuck. Not only do we not send £350 million a week to the EU. Johnson and his fellow Brexiters last month distanced themselves from the promise to give £350 million a week to the NHS. Now in an interview with The Sun, he seems to be wriggling out of the pledge to axe payments to the EU. The tabloid says: “Boris refused to commit to fully ending all UK contributions to the Brussels budget every year.”

Johnson also kicked into the long grass his commitment to scrap VAT on energy bills. During the campaign, he and other Brexiters wrote a piece for The Sun vowing to axe the tax.

Although the article is no longer on the tabloid’s website, their statement – entitled “Vote Leave to cut VAT on fuel” – is available here.

Now, according to The Sun, Johnson has shrugged off his campaign commitment to slash VAT from struggling Brits’ energy bills as “a decision for a future cabinet”, but added: “It’s still a good idea. Tick.” The foreign secretary had already edged away from the pledge last month.

Johnson, though, is for now sticking to another pledge – that we’ll take control of immigration and continue open trade with the EU. “Our policy is having our cake and eating it. We are Pro-secco but by no means anti-pasto,” he told the tabloid.

Unless the foreign secretary’s wit manages to win over our EU partners, it looks like what he’ll actually be eating is Vote Leave’s promise that Brexit won’t damage trade with the bloc.

Without such pledges, it is doubtful the Leave camp would have won the referendum. As they melt away, the case for asking the people whether they really want to quit the EU once they know what Brexit means becomes ever stronger.

Hugo Dixon is co-founder of CommonGround as well as editor-in-chief of InFacts. You can sign up as a supporter here.

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2 Responses to “Is Boris wriggling out of pledge to axe payments to EU?”

  • Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (aka Boris Johnson) should also be known as ‘the Piffle’ Johnson or Bla-bla-bla Boris. He really ought to be a stand up comic. That is where his real talents lie.