Boris Johnson warned both fellow Tories and the Opposition that any bid to reverse Brexit would be “disastrous” and leave millions of citizens feeling betrayed.
The foreign secretary, who led the Vote Leave effort, was the first of the Cabinet’s big hitters to unveil his “road to Brexit” vision in what was beforehand billed as attempt to reach out to Remain voters and heal divisions caused by the June 2016 vote.
But although he aimed to reassure those with “anxieties” that Britain’s future outside the EU should provide hope, not fear, he fell back on his hard-line stance and risked exposing splits within government ranks.
He insisted it would be “intolerable” and “undemocratic” for British people to continue to have laws imposed on them from abroad, saying: “I fear that some people are becoming ever more determined to stop Brexit, to reverse the referendum vote of June 23 2016, and to frustrate the will of the people. I believe that would be a disastrous mistake that would lead to permanent and ineradicable feelings of betrayal. We cannot and will not let it happen.”
He added: “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.”
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who supports the Open Britain campaign “against a hard, destructive Brexit”, said Mr Johnson was “totally unqualified to preach about the perils of fear and betrayal”, having “engaged in disgraceful scaremongering” during the EU referendum.
Theresa May is expected to address the UK’s future relations with the EU in a speech in Munich on Saturday, the day after she holds talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.