BORIS JOHNSON has insisted Brexit should not be a ‘great V-sign from the cliffs of Dover’ to other nations.
The foreign secretary made the comments in a speech designed to lay out a ‘liberal’ vision of leaving the EU, but was criticised for failing to detail the government’s Brexit aims.
Mr Johnson was greeted by Lib Dem jeers as he arrived at the venue — the party’s London offices are in the same block, prompting a balcony protest.
He told his audience: ‘I want to show that Brexit need not be nationalist but can be internationalist, not an economic threat but a considerable opportunity, not un-British but a manifestation of this country’s historic national genius.’
Referring to pro-Leave artwork on the south coast last June of a giant Theresa May making a rude gesture, Mr Johnson said: ‘Brexit is about re-engaging this country with its global identity… it’s not some great V-sign from the cliffs of Dover.’ He added: ‘Let’s unite about what we all believe in — an outward-looking liberal global future.’
And it can be good for carrots by the way. It may be that we can do wonderful things to promote organic carrots
He denied there was a lack of clarity — while pretending he misheard the word as ‘carrots’. He said: ‘What I’m trying to address… is a great positive agenda and we need to get that out there and explain it. And it can be good for carrots by the way. It may be we can do wonderful things… to promote organic carrots.’
Mr Johnson also raised eyebrows by appearing to make a joke about sex tourism in south-east Asia. Commenting on how Britons were outward-looking, he said: ‘More than a million people go to Thailand every year where our superb consular service deals with some of the things they get up to, on which I make no comment.’
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, from the Open Britain campaign, said of the speech: ‘The scaremongering, mistruths, lack of detail and disregard for the economic realities of Brexit were an alarming throwback to the referendum campaign.’
■ WAGE growth is set to outpace inflation and rise at its fastest rate since the financial crisis, according to a Bank of England survey. Private-sector companies are expected to raise average pay by 3.1 per cent this year, up from 2.6 per cent last year. The last time pay rose so sharply was in 2008, when private-sector wages increased by about 3.5 per cent. The overall increase could also see wages finally outstripping inflation, which held steady at three per cent in January.