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Boris Johnson on what post-Brexit Britain will look like

Boris Johnson speaks before the EU referendum. Credit: ITV News

Much talk in the last 24 hours that Boris Johnson’s Telegraph column is the mother of all U turns – that he wants to be in the single market after all. I thought it was clearly too quickly written with many sentences open to multiple interpretations. Now I see Sam Coates of the Times has spoken to friends of Boris Johnson’s admitting exactly that. It’s clear Boris Johnson is pretty tired. But it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a plan.

Here at ITV we did the last big interview with Boris Johnson before the referendum. It was broad and informative and I thought I would piece together what he said then, together with my sense of what I think he wants to happen.

A Boris Johnson premiership would probably like this from a deal: the UK would get “access”, not “membership”, to the single market. Yes, Angela Merkel is right now rubbishing the chances of this – but Johnson’s team think that because we are bigger than Switzerland we stand to be able to negotiate a better deal.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Credit: PA

In exchange there would not be free movement of people but instead access to the UK for people with job offers. So an Italian nurse or a Dutch doctor, who were migrating for work purposes, as people can into the US and Canada.But there would be an end to the free movement of people without jobs. One of the big questions for Team Johnson is whether their 17 million Leave voters will think this goes far enough.

So it’s a sort of gauze-y membrane of a border between us and the EU – access, not membership, of the single market; access, not full freedom of movement, for EU citizens. And of course – an end to the supremacy of EU law.

Who knows if any of this will survive impact with reality. Here are the relevant bits from our interview of ten days ago:

  • Single market

I asked Boris Johnson about ITV footage that had emerged that morning of him saying in 2013 he wanted to be in the single market.

Boris Johnson: “What we want now and what would be brilliant for this country is to do what all other countries around the world do and that is have access to the single market but not be snared up in the legislative machine.”

“One of the incredible things about Britain's relationship with the single market is since it was created in 1992, and I was there so I remember it, it was meant to be this huge cyclotron that was going to move goods and services around the EU faster than ever and on the contrary, trade slowed down. It was the countries outside the EU, 36 countries outside the EU, that did better than us at exporting goods and services into the other single market.”

Stratton: “But you still wanted access in 2013?”

Boris Johnson: “I want into it in the sense that I want us to have access into it. This machine here [Boris Johnson holds up my iPad] ladies and gentleman had access to the single market. [Looks down the lens of the camera] your camera had access to the single market that so what we are talking about and that is what is necessary. Where is your camera from?

Cameraman: “Japan.”

“You see your camera has succeeded in gaining access to the single market and that's the important thing.”

The EU flag. Credit: PA
  • Immigration

Then, in our exchange about immigration, he suggested that the key thing for whether or not someone could come to the UK, is whether or not they have a firm job.

Boris Johnson; “My honest view is that to be running at 330,000 a year is probably pushing it. You are talking about a city size of Newcastle arriving every year. That is going to push the population up very rapidly indeed. I don’t think the demand of business and industry is anywhere like that. I'll give you an example of one statistic, 77000 people came here last year who didn’t have any kind of job offer at all. Now I think that that is excessive. You can look at systems that makes sure you are marrying up opportunity and real need to the people coming.”

He went on: “When I went to work on the European continent 25-30 years ago, I had to go to the commune to show I had a job and was going to be useful and all the rest of it.

  • Negotiating Britain's exit

Johnson told me that he wanted the team that negotiated Britain’s exit to be cross-party, including Remainers. Here is our exchange on what next:

How long should the informal, pre-article 50, period of Brexit negotiations last?

Boris Johnson: “Could last a few months.”

Allegra Stratton: “Only a few months?”

Johnson: “I can’t figure the exact timetable. You are able to do various things in the interim.”

Stratton: “Do you want a cross party team?”

Johnson: “Absolutely I want to stress that given the cross party nature of the campaign, on both sides.”

Stratton: “So you would have people from the Remain side?”

Johnson: “Indeed all parties and there are some experts who can see the arguments both ways?”

Stratton: “I thought we didn’t trust experts anymore.”

Johnson: “There are some people who have been around the EU seen for a long time who would be useful and who would be itching to do it. It's great opportunity for our country. It's what Europe needs. It's called democracy. That's what it's all about.”