This Boris Johnson quote has been edited and taken out of context

23rd Jan 2020

Claim

Boris Johnson wrote in 2013 that the EU is “better placed to strike trade deals with the US, or China, than the UK on its own. More generally, there is a risk that leaving the EU will be globally interpreted as a narrow, xenophobic, backward-looking thing to do.”

Conclusion

These words are taken from a 2013 Telegraph article by Mr Johnson, but have been edited and taken out of context. He says these arguments are “untested” and also makes points in favour of leaving the EU.

A post claiming that Boris Johnson made a number of pro-EU arguments in 2013 has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook and Twitter

It claims he said the EU: “is better placed to strike trade deals with the US, or China, than the UK on its own. More generally, there is a risk that leaving the EU will be globally interpreted as a narrow, xenophobic, backward-looking thing to do.”

These words are taken from an article Mr Johnson wrote for the Telegraph in 2013, but they have been edited and taken out of context to make it seem like he’s unambiguously arguing against leaving the EU. The article is actually titled “We must be ready to leave the EU if we don’t get what we want.” (Although he also writes: “As it happens, I think the question of EU membership is no longer of key importance to the destiny of this country.”)

In it, Mr Johnson presents four possible arguments for staying in the EU, and four for leaving it. Amongst the arguments for staying in the EU, he said that the EU is “arguably” in a better place to make trade deals, and separately he wrote that leaving it might appear xenophobic, although he says that both these propositions are “untested”. 

These two points have been edited together, with the word “arguably” and several counterarguments removed, to produce the quote circulating on social media. 

The full quote of his third and fourth arguments in favour of remaining reads:

“3) Global influence. The EU is arguably better placed to strike trade deals with the US, or China, than the UK on its own, though this proposition is plainly untested, and the idea of an EU “Common Foreign Policy” is plainly a joke. Where was the EU on Iraq, or Libya? What, come to that, is the EU position on the Falklands?

“4) Perception of UK. It is often said that our strategic significance for the Americans or the Chinese depends on our membership of the EU; though, again, this is untested. More generally, there is a risk that leaving the EU will be globally interpreted as a narrow, xenophobic, backward-looking thing to do.”

His arguments in support of leaving the EU included the fact that leaving the EU would save money, regain sovereignty, would allow the UK to “make our own laws again” and mean that “we can no longer blame Brussels”.

During the 2016 EU referendum, Mr Johnson backed the Leave campaign.