Boris Johnson's Attempt To Silence Brexit 'Gloom-Mongering' Is Torn Apart

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

On the third anniversary of Brexit, Boris Johnson has attempted to paint the withdrawal from the EU as a major boost for the UK – but immediately faced pushback over a questionable claim.

Taking to Twitter, the former prime minister urged people to “shrug off all this negativity and gloom-mongering” about Brexit despite dire warnings about the UK economy.

On the same day, the International Monetary Fund said Britain’s productivity will be worse than every other major country in 2023. Even Russia – hit by swingeing economic sanctions by the global community due to its invasion of Ukraine – will do better, the IMF said.

Undeterred, the man who formally led the UK out of the bloc promised the “opportunities are huge”.

“Let’s shrug off all this negativity and gloom-mongering that I hear about Brexit. Let’s remember the opportunities that lie ahead, and the vaccine roll-out proves it,” he said.

In a social media video, he insisted the UK’s coronavirus vaccination roll-out was as rapid as it was because “we’d taken back control” of the Medical Health Regulation Agency (MHRA).

“We were able to license that vaccine faster than any other European country and that gave us a crucial edge,” he said.

“So today, on Brexit Day, as we look back at that vaccine roll-out, let’s also look forward to all the other ways in which we can change our country and our economy for the better.”

Was the vaccine roll-out really a Brexit win?

Fact-checkers have repeatedly argued Brexit do not help with the quick expansion of Covid-19 vaccines.

In December 2020, then health secretary Matt Hancock claimed the process was more easy because of Britain’s exit from the EU.

“We do all the same safety checks and the same processes, but we have been able to speed up how they’re done because of Brexit,” the health secretary said in December.

But he was shot down by British officials who made clear the strategy had nothing to do with Brexit, and took place under European law.

At the time, the MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said that “we have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law”, which then remained in place.

And Kate Bingham, head of Johnson’s vaccine taskforce, said the speedy approval in the UK had “nothing to do with Brexit”.

She said the UK’s faster approval of the vaccine was to do with the decision-making process at the British MHRA and that staff prepared well.

Bingham said: “It had nothing to do with Brexit… but that we were organised.”

Johnson’s remarks also contrast with recent polling suggesting growing unhappiness with the way Brexit has turned out and disputes continuing over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

While the IMF’s World Economic Outlook did not mention Brexit, economists did link the dire forecast to exiting the single market with the UK’s largest trading partner.

Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There are a few things which are affecting us more than other countries; one in particular actually is the loss of people from our labour force.

“We’ve heard quite a lot about the fact that we’ve lost 500,000-plus people from work, people retiring early, immigrants not coming in from the European Union and so on. That’s not affecting any other country in Europe.”

This reply to Johnson perhaps sums it up