LeaveHQ, 24/03/2016  

Boris Johnson had a train-wreck session in front of the Treasury select committee.

Whenever attempts were made to pin him down, he retreated into waffle and bluster while pouring out a torrent of delusional aspirations with not the slightest attempt to offer any evidence. He even resorted to shouting down his questioners in a most extraordinary display of bullying.

Snippets are recorded on the Guardian website where we see the foolishness of his pronouncements exposed for all to see. Central to his pitch was his claim that: "It would not be hard to do a free trade deal with the EU 'very rapidly indeed'". There need not be any uncertainty, said Mr Johnson. Concern over the problems of leaving was analogous to scaremongering over the Y2K bug. The sheer negativity about trading deals, he claimed, is because we've "become infantilised".

When asked whether he wants access to the Single Market, Mr Johnson stated that the Single Market was a term that was widely misunderstood. We should "get out from under that system" where all laws were justiciable by the ECJ. His view was that we should have free trade with European partners based very largely on existing arrangements. This was: "A free trade arrangement that continued to give access to UK goods and services to the European continent" – without, of course, freedom of movement.

This is the classic delusional stance embraced by Vote Leave, with Johnson suggesting that "he would not want UK to remain as part of the EU single market" while still expecting to have full access. As before, he denied that he wanted a "Canadian deal" and said instead he wanted "a British deal".

However, Johnson was forced to admit that there is no precedent for EU striking a free trade deal in less than two years. Press on this, he was unable to name any country that had struck a trade deal with the EU in less than two years. Yet, according to Mr Johnson, this was "one of the defects of the EU", then attacking MP Rachel Reeves for "absolute scaremongering" and talking "total nonsense". This blustering was his standard approach to anyone who challenged him. 

The questioning hit at the two most pernicious myths perpetrated by the "leaver" caucus, the first that we can agree a free trade deal within the two years initially set by Article 50, the second that we can have free trade access without also conceding free movement of persons.

Both those myths were endorsed by Johnson, and many of his supporters hold similar views. But in The Times today, which was referred to in the Committee hearing, we saw Pierre Pettigrew - former Canadian trade minister – state unequivocally that a Canadian-style deal could not be achieved in that timescale. He was talking in terms of a decade to settle our international trading arrangements.

What came over from the session, therefore, was that, unless the "leave" campaign can get used to the idea that we will not be abler to secure a straight free trade agreement within two years, and that no full access will be conceded without free movement of persons, the campaign will not progress.

We must resolve this. It is exactly this kind of nonsense that will lose the referendum. It is harming our credibility and making us a laughing stock. There is no time to waste on this. 

This session showed that Johnson is not close to conceding a need to compromise. He retains the delusional view that a deal can be secured in "very short time", simply on the wholly unsubstantiated assumption that the EU will do a deal because they need our trade. At one point, he even quipped that he'd "demolished" all of the questions asked.

But every time he was seriously challenged, he failed to adequately respond. For instance, earlier in the session. Mr Johnson attempted to defend his claims about "ludicrous" EU laws, some made in his column of 22 February.

One of his more egregious claims was that that the EU prohibits children under eight from inflating balloons. This is actually a serious subject, of international concern, but not for Mr Johnson. He asserts that the EU has promulgated a law prohibiting children from blowing up balloons.

In fact, EU requirements are restricted to requiring warning labels on packs of balloons, cautioning that children under eight should be supervised. When Mr Johnson was shown to be wrong, he attempted to bury the rebuttal in a torrent of sneering prose.

Johnson was also taken apart on his claim about recycling tea bags and also about EU legislation setting out dimensions of what he called a "Euro coffin". He was confronted with the charge that there was no EU legislation on coffins, with controls in fact stemming from the International Convention on the Transport of Corpses. Yet, when this was presented to him, Johnson simply denied he was wrong. 

A great deal of time was spent on a discussion on the safe dimensions of truck cabs, to reduce risks to cyclists. Johnson claimed that the provision for high visibility cabs was "blocked by Brussels". Neither the Committee, nor Mr Johnson, however, were able to overcome their innate ignorance – failing completely to understand or recognise the role of UNECE.

Both Committee and Johnson also made a total hash of their discussions on the amount of EU law affecting, not even beginning to get to grips with the subject.

Nevertheless, after more turgid blustering by Johnson, that had him show that he was completely out of his depth on farming, the Guardian stated that had been "a dismal morning for Johnson". Overall, it said, "he has not been an effective witnesses and MPs from all parties have either shredded his claims, or ridiculed what he has had to say". If Vote Leave are looking for a spokesman with heavyweight intellectual credibility, it added, "Johnson has ruled himself out as their candidate".

This is not a man who can credibly represent the "leave" campaign. He actually represents everything to do with archaic, redundant and blinkered euroscepticism. The kind of euroscepticism we repudiate and are trying to overcome so a new movement can be born.

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