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"Think of Britain": Boris Johnson's previously unpublished pro-EU column is revealed

In a column written in February, Johnson warned of the potential “economic shock” that may follow Brexit.

Boris Johnson holds a brick during a 2014 speech
Boris Johnson holds a brick during a 2014 speech
Image: Joe Giddens

IN THE CRUCIAL days before Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson embraced Britain’s “leave campaign,” he wrote a newspaper column explaining why Britain should remain inside the European Union — but those forceful words were never published before Britain’s 23 June vote.

The Sunday Times has now published Johnson’s pro-EU column, which outlines his fears about leaving the EU.

It has long been known that Johnson wavered before breaking with then-Prime Minister David Cameron and playing a pivotal role in the successful “leave” campaign. But the publication of his column illuminates how Johnson would have made the case for staying in the EU if he had backed Cameron.

He warns of the potential “economic shock” that leaving might bring Britain, praises the value of having easy access to the EU’s huge single market and makes an emotional case for preserving ties to other European nations.

“Shut your eyes,” he writes.

“Hold your breath. Think of Britain. Think of the rest of the EU. Think of the future. Think of the desire of your children and your grandchildren to live and work in other European countries; to sell things there, to make friends and perhaps to find partners there.

Ask yourself: Despite all the defects and disappointments of this exercise — do you really, truly, definitely want Britain to pull out of the EU?

These words, of course, were not published before decisive June vote. Johnson instead joined UKIP leader Nigel Farage and other senior Conservative Party figures to argue that Britain should cut its ties to the union.

The pro-EU column was written in February, along with a pro-Brexit piece which was later published by the Telegraph. The Sunday Times reports that Johnson wrote the article that’s been published today in order to clarify his thoughts.

Huge implications 

Johnson’s decision to join “leave” had enormous implications.

He gave the side a familiar, charismatic leader who lent credibility to the idea that Britain would be better on its own.

The “leave” vote ended Cameron’s tenure as prime minister.

It set in motion the ascent of Prime Minister Theresa May, who gave Johnson a key Cabinet post where he is influential on Syrian policy and helping to shape the Brexit negotiations.

- Associated Press with reporting from Daragh Brophy 

Read: Support for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil increases in latest opinion poll >

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