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  1. ITV Report

Boris Johnson: Brexit is not a 'V-sign from the cliffs of Dover'

Brexit is about re-engaging the UK with its global identity and not "some great V-sign from the cliffs of Dover," Boris Johnson has said.

In a speech aimed at appeasing Remainers and building unity as Britain negotiates its EU exit, the foreign secretary insisted Brexit was "grounds for much more hope than fear".

"I absolutely refuse to accept that it is some British spasm of bad manners," Mr Johnson said.

"It's not some great V-sign from the cliffs of Dover.

"It is the expression of a legitimate and natural desire for self-government of the people, by the people, for the people."

He reiterated his belief that leaving the EU was about taking back control, saying it would be "intolerable" and "undemocratic" for British people to have laws imposed on them from abroad and that EU regulation "is not always suited to the needs of the UK".

But he also acknowledged EU "idealism" and insisted Brexit was "not un-British", but was the great "liberal project of the age".

He stressed the possible economic opportunities of leaving, saying: "It's not about shutting ourselves off, it's about going global."

Mr Johnson's Brexit stance is not accepted by all Credit: PA

Mr Johnson, who led the Vote Leave effort during the 2016 referendum, is the first of the Cabinet's big hitters to unveil his "road to Brexit" vision.

His hard Brexit stance is not accepted by all in government or indeed the country, but his speech - reportedly signed off by Downing Street - was more conciliatory and attempted to reassure those with "anxieties" about Britain's future outside the EU.

He also used it as an opportunity to back the prime minister, saying in answer to a question from one journalist that Theresa May was "the cure" to "Brexchosis".

"The prime minister can do a great Brexit deal that can unite the country and that is what the whole cabinet wants to achieve," he said.

Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson's speech revealed a 'Brexit of deregulation' Credit: PA

Despite the upbeat tone of his address, Mr Johnson's speech has raised fears his vision for Brexit would lead to the loss of employment protections.

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said the speech revealed a "Brexit of deregulation, where rights and protections are casually cast aside".

"Nobody will be fooled or reassured by the Foreign Secretary's empty rhetoric," he said.

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman, described the foreign secretary as "completely deluded about Brexit".

But Richard Tice, co-chairman of the pro-Brexit Leave Means Leave group, welcomed the speech, saying Mr Johnson had set out an "optimistic vision" of Brexit.