In his closing speech to Conservative Party faithful at their Blackpool Conference this weekend, the Prime Minister equated the plight of Ukrainians and those fighting for their freedom at the hands of Russian aggression to the campaign for Brexit and those who voted to leave the EU.
Johnson said "I know that it's the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time [...] When the British people voted for Brexit, in such large, large numbers, I don't believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It's because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself."
Naomi Smith, CEO of internationalist campaign Best for Britain says,
“Johnson, mired in sleaze, corruption and police investigations, rolls out the tired and only playbook that’s ever worked for him with his party’s right flank.
"Equating the Brexit vote to Ukrainian plight is not only a disgraceful insult to those in the grip of war, it dismisses the fact Ukraine has applied to join the EU, the greatest peace project in human history.”
What did Boris Johnson say?
Speaking at Conservative Party Spring Conference in Blackpool on Saturday 19th March 2022, Boris Johnson said:
"This is a turning point for the world. And it's a moment of choice. It's a choice between freedom and oppression. And I know there are some around the world, even in some Western governments who invoke what they call realpolitik. And you say that we're better off making accommodations with tyranny. I have to say I believe they are profoundly wrong. And to try to renormalise relations with Putin, after this, as we did in 2014, would be to make exactly the same mistake again. And that is why, and that is why Putin must fail.
"And I know that it's the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time, I can give you a couple of famous recent examples. When the British people voted for Brexit, in such large, large numbers, I don't believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It's because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself. Give you another example, where the British population came forward to be vaccinated at such incredible speed voluntarily. Unlike many other countries, I'm sure it was partly because they wanted to avoid catching Covid, very sensible thing to do, by the way, I hope you've all had your boosters. You have? Well we're getting ready for a fourth jab, because we're going to need it. But I'll tell you why people did it. Why? Why did the British people come forward? I mean, 90%, we got entirely voluntary. Entirely voluntary. It was because they wanted to get on with their lives. They were fed up with being told what to do, by people like me. They were!”