THE EUROPEAN UNION has been the subject of much of Boris Johnson’s criticisms both throughout his political and journalistic career. But even Brussels would have been taken aback by the Prime Minister’s scathing assessment of EU markets and its impact on wealth in 2016.
Just over a month before Britain voted to leave the EU, Boris Johnson claimed that ‘fat cats’ in the UK love the bloc as it allows big business to increase its wealth while strangling wages for ordinary people. The former Mayor of London argued in his 2016 Telegraph column that there is an “insidious reason” that the top one percent in the UK love the EU. He said: “The whole EU system of regulation is so remote and opaque that they are able to use it to their advantage, to maintain their oligarchic position and, by keeping out competition, to push their pay packets even higher. “
The MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip said the wealthiest figures in the country can “fix a meeting” with the European Commissioner or meet them at Davos to address their personal grievances with certain issues.
He added that this is a privilege not granted to ordinary people who own small businesses in the UK, who all have to follow EU regulations.
Mr Johnson continued: “Of course, the FTSE100 fat cats will sign up for remaining in the EU.
“They are getting personally richer and richer – by manipulating EU regulation that only the big players can understand – while those at the bottom have seen a real terms fall in their wages.
“It is one of the reasons that the EU has such low innovation, low productivity, and low growth. If you want to back the entrepreneurs, the grafters, the workers, the innovators, the burgeoning and dynamic businesses of Britain – then Vote Leave on June 23, and give this cabal the kick in the pants they deserve.”
The UK did in fact vote to leave the EU, and now three-and-a-half years later, Mr Johnson is locked in tense trade negotiations and aiming to avoid the regulatory standards he lambasted in 2016.
Michel Barnier said last week in his plans for talks that quota-free access to EU markets was dependent on the inclusion of “a mechanism to uphold the high standards we have on social, environmental, tax, and state aid matters today and in their future developments”.
Mr Johnson hit back by saying that there was “no need” to follow Brussels’ rules.
He also said that if Mr Barnier thwarts his proposal for a Canada-style free trade agreement, he could instead pursue a deal like Australia’s.
The Prime Minister added: “I have no doubt that in either case, the UK will prosper mightily”.
The EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator has tried to quell the disagreement, stating that it isn’t “alignment” from the UK that Brussels wants, but “consistency.”
He said: “We’re not asking for alignment, I know it’s a red rag to the UK, so I won’t really mention it.
“What I am looking for is consistency.”
Downing Street has remained firm, stating that whatever happens come December 31 2020, a new arrangement will be implemented whether with or without a deal.