The UK’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson will today attempt to reassure voters that the UK’s split from the EU is a cause for “hope not fear”.

Johnson will recognise the deep divisions Brexit has opened, and try to woo despairing Remain supporters who think Brexit is a disaster in his Valentine’s Day address – entitled the Road to Brexit.

The foreign secretary will use the speech to try to build bridges with those who voted to remain in the EU, saying their belief in European solidarity is based on “noble sentiments”.

However, Johnson will warn that failing to “take back control of our laws” will make it impossible for Britain to strike free trade deals and “exploit the changes in the world economy”.

Johnson will make his speech at 11am London time, in the UK capital.

What he will say:

Johnson is expected to say:

Holding another referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU would be a “disastrous mistake that would lead to permanent and ineradicable feelings of betrayal”.

It is not good enough to say ‘you lost, get over it’.

We must accept that many [Remainers] are actuated by entirely noble sentiments, a real sense of solidarity with our European neighbours and a desire for the UK to succeed.

If we are to carry this project through to national success – as we must – then we must also reach out to those who still have anxieties.

I want to try to anatomise at least some of those fears and to show to the best of my ability that they are unfounded and that the very opposite is usually true: that Brexit is not grounds for fear but hope.

Why it matters:

Boris Johnson’s is the first in a series of speeches by UK prime minister Theresa May and her ministers on the “road to Brexit”.

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May is expected to deliver a keynote address in Munich on Saturday – after a meeting with the German chancellor Angela Merkel – on future security ties with the EU after a Brexit.

In several weeks’ time, May will make a second speech on the UK’s future relationship with Brussels, following a cabinet away day summit at Chequers.

David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, and Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, are also expected to set out their agendas

Johnson led the Vote Leave effort and this speech has been billed as an attempt to reach out to remain voters, setting out the liberal argument for Brexit.

Remain MPs have already accused Johnson of hypocrisy.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna MP, a leading supporter of Open Britain, said:

Boris Johnson is totally unqualified to preach about the perils of fear and betrayal when he engaged in disgraceful scaremongering with his ridiculous assertion that Turkey was on the verge of joining the EU and he has already betrayed millions of people by going back on his pledge to secure £350 million extra per week for the NHS.

This is hypocrisy of the highest order.


The Foreign Secretary’s speech also coincides with a report by MPs claiming Government delays, uncertainty and under-resourcing are leaving the UK’s borders and immigration unprepared for Brexit.

A report by the House of Commons select committee of home affairs has raised concerns about the border force, which it says is already stretched because of “inadequate resources” and will be under more pressure because of new immigration checks for EU nationals and customs changes.