UK Politics

Did Boris Johnson succeed with his big Brexit speech?

Boris Johnson speaking in London Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson gave little away as he emphasised themes familiar from the referendum campaign

Right on cue - there they were to greet him.

The Remainers Boris Johnson wanted to reach out to were waving 'Exit from Brexit' signs on the balcony of the building where he was to give his speech.

Almost two years since the starting gun was fired on the referendum campaign, here was a message from one of the leading Leave figures to the other side: Brexit can't be stopped, but I understand your concerns and I promise there's nothing to fear.

It was an attempt to bridge the divide and convince doubters of the merits of Brexit.

This was a return to his key campaign themes - taking back control of laws, embracing the world beyond Europe - in a speech heavy on rhetoric.

But if the foreign secretary's aim was to heal divisions, the response only served to reveal how entrenched both sides still are.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Those who see the UK's future within the EU were keen to get their voices heard

Brexiteers largely welcomed it as a rousing and optimistic outline of what lies ahead for post-Brexit Britain, while those in the pro-EU camp scoffed at the reassurance.

The speech was billed by Downing Street as the first in the series to be given by senior cabinet ministers which would flesh out the government's Brexit plans in the coming weeks.

But this was Boris Johnson once again sketching out a rough outline of a big picture - notably light on detail.

Downing Street had dubbed this the beginning of the "road map to Brexit" - but the Cabinet are not yet closer to agreeing on the desired destination.

Boris Johnson once again made clear his opposition to sticking closely to the EU after Brexit as some of his colleagues wish to - warning it would be "mad" to go through all this upheaval if we weren't going to fully take advantage of the possible freedoms.

Continuing to follow Brussels' rules would be "intolerable", he said.

Though there was much concurring with what Theresa May has said on Brexit so far - no Boris going off message as he often has in the past - when it comes to the Brexit road ahead, we are no clearer on the government's direction of travel.

We voted in 2016 – why is it taking so long to leave?

Well, none of the major players has ever left the European Union before...

So there are some BIG problems to solve

Such as how we don’t end up worse-off economically

The EU has a "single market" - goods from other EU countries aren't taxed at the border

And people can also move around as if the EU was a single country

Outside the EU, the UK might have to pay more to buy from and sell to EU countries

This could also slow the flow of goods and parts, disrupting production for UK firms

The EU says Britain can’t cherry pick – keeping some benefits without membership

But that could mean the UK is freer to make other trade deals around the world

Any special deal the UK wants has to be approved by MPs first

Then the deal has to be agreed by 27 national parliaments across Europe

That’s a lot of people who need to agree with each other…

So, the date UK is meant to leave is 29 March 2019

But there are already plans for a 21-month transition period after that

During which the UK could still be governed by some EU laws

A trade deal between Canada and the EU took seven years to agree

However, as the UK’s already fully aligned with the EU, it could be quicker

But it is likely that we will all be talking about Brexit for a long time yet...

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