Isabel Hardman

In campaign seizes on Boris Johnson’s Brexit jobs comments

In campaign seizes on Boris Johnson's Brexit jobs comments
Text settings

Boris Johnson’s admission to Andrew Marr that Brexit ‘might’ cost people their jobs has quite inevitably been seized upon by the ‘In’ campaign as a sign that a vote to leave would put people’s livelihoods at risk.

The Mayor of London came on the show to make the positive case for Britain leaving the European Union. It was his first big challenge as one of the key figures in the Out campaign, and as James argued yesterday, he needs to match David Cameron’s efficacy in putting his side’s case across. He did give an entertaining interview in which he scrapped with Andrew Marr over who had ‘sovereignty’ over the programme, and he did offer some good examples and illustrations of why he wanted to leave.

But he also rambled rather, and did not give the positive image of a post-EU Britain that he needs to offer. His line about jobs was particularly unhelpful, though in truth there wasn’t much else the Mayor could really have said that was honest. Marr stated that ‘there would be a period where people would lose their jobs’, and Boris replied that ‘there might. It might or it might not’, which is as equivocal as you can get. He insisted that the referendum was a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ and a chance to ‘take back control’, but was much better when talking about the problems with the EU than what life would be like outside:

‘I think that it is certainly true that if you vote to leave all your options are good and you could certainly strike a great free trade deal, as Wolfgang Schauble has just said, with the EU. What I don't think you can do is hope you remain in the EU for any real reform and what we were told was that the stated government policy was that we should have a reformed EU, wholesale change in Britain's relationship with the EU was promised, that has obviously not been delivered, we were told at the time that Britain would be perfectly safe to walk away, by the Government, by the Prime Minister. That rhetoric has very much been changed and I think that policy was right then, to be absolutely confident about the future of this country.’

Boris’s challenge over the next few weeks is to make a strong and detailed case for what would be so good about life without EU membership. Then he will really have matched up to David Cameron, who is currently rather effectively striking enough doubt into voters’ minds as to make life very difficult for the Leave campaigns.