My Lords, the bad news is that Boris Johnson says he is contemplating no deal; the good news is that he does not really believe it. He knows that it would be disastrous and that Parliament will not agree to it. More to the point, he does not really believe in Brexit itself. He was against Brexit; then he was for it. He was against Mrs May’s deal; then he was for it. Anyone who knows Boris Johnson knows that the only thing Boris Johnson believes in is Boris Johnson. He is the Roman emperor for whom policy is bread and circuses for the little people.
If remaining emperor means chucking Brexit, Mr Johnson will do so at the drop of a hat. We even know the words he will use when he does so, because he has told us. Just before he came out for Brexit, he said that he was in two minds and wrote an article setting out the opposite case. Three years later, that article has stood the test of time. I will read it your Lordships:
“Think of the future. Think of the desire of your children and your grandchildren to live and work in other European countries; to sell things there, to make friends and perhaps to find partners there. … Almost everyone expects there to be some sort of economic shock as a result of a Brexit. How big would it be? ... And how can we know? And then there is the worry about Scotland, and the possibility that an English-only ‘leave’ vote could lead to the break-up of the union”.
Clearly, Mr Johnson had read my noble friend Lord Reid’s speech. He continued:
“There is the Putin factor: we don’t want to do anything to encourage more shirtless swaggering from the Russian leader … And then there is the whole geostrategic anxiety. Britain is a great nation, a global force for good. It is surely a boon for the world and for Europe that she should be intimately engaged in the EU. This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms: the membership fee seems rather small for all that access. Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?”
My Lords, why indeed?