Boris Johnson has described extra bureaucratic hurdles for business due to Brexit as a tragic reality of leaving the European Union that his government hoped to reduce. Speaking as British authorities brace for the first real test this week of their systems to minimise border disruption, the prime minister said he had always made clear there would be changes when the transition period ended.
“I mean, the tragic reality of business life is that there is some bureaucracy. We’re trying to remove it, but we have a massive opportunity to expand our horizons and to think globally and to think big,” he told the BBC.
Light traffic at the ports helped to ensure there were few delays or problems at Britain’s borders in the first three days of the new customs and regulatory arrangements. But officials expect that there could be some disruption this week as lorries begin to cross the English Channel in greater numbers.
Former prime minister Tony Blair said on Sunday that the freedoms Brexit restored to Britain were of little value and that the country would be in trouble unless the government used leaving the EU as an opportunity to make tough decisions.
“The only way I make sense of Brexit is to treat it as shock therapy, that we then realise we’ve got to take certain big decisions as a country, we’ve got to set out a new agenda for the future, but that’s going to be difficult to do,” he told Times Radio.
“The truth of the matter is these so-called freedoms from European regulation that Brexit’s supposed to give us, they don’t really give us anything much at all. Because the truth is that decisions for Britain are and always have been resting with the British people and with the British government that they elect. But what it does mean, if we just carry on having the same old political debate post-Brexit as we had pre-Brexit, we’re in a lot of trouble as a country.”
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has promised to take an independent Scotland back into the EU, but Mr Johnson suggested that a second independence referendum should have to wait for as long as Britain waited for its second vote on EU membership.
‘Not jolly events’
“Referendums in my experience, direct experience in this country are not particularly jolly events. They don’t have a notably unifying force in the national mood. They should be only once in a generation,” he said.
“We had a referendum in 1975, we then had another one in 2016. That seems to be about the right sort of gap. How about that?”
Scottish National Party deputy leader Keith Brown described the prime minister’s comments as “incoherent bluster”, accusing him of trying to deny democracy.
“Even his American pal Donald Trump has learned that if you try to stand in the way of the democratic choice of a nation you get swept away. The people who will decide our future are the people of Scotland, not Boris Johnson and the Westminster Tories,” Mr Brown said.