Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London who galvanized British discontent about immigration behind the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, now says yesterday’s seismic Brexit decision will not empower extremists.
The vote will “take the wind out of the sails of the extremists and those who play politics with immigration,” said Johnson, the Conservative seen as a likely replacement for prime minister David Cameron, who has said he will step down. The UK is not “turning its back” on Europe, Johnson said.
One of the key messages of the populist leave campaign was that a Brexit would give Britain greater control over its borders and stem the tide of immigration, which Johnson and others said was “out of control.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan responded to yesterday’s vote with a Facebook post assuring European residents of the city that they are welcome to stay and continue contributing to its economy:
Conservative Sayeeda Warsi, who days before the referendum quit the “leave” campaign after accusing it of peddling “hate and xenophobia” had this response to Johnson:
Meanwhile, Erna Solberg, the prime mister of Norway, which is not a member of the EU, said that Britain’s decision to leave would be “a boost for extreme forces that want less cooperation in Europe.”
The UK’s exit negotiations from the EU are likely to be lengthy and chaotic. Chief among the terms that need to be agreed upon will be where exactly Britain stands on the bloc’s rules that allow for free movement across its member states.
The “leave” campaign had argued that applying the points-based system that is in place for non-EU migrants coming to the UK to EU citizens would bring down net migration. That’s despite official statistics showing that EU net migration has never exceeded non-EU net migration:
Johnson said the vote means British people can “find our voice in the world again, a voice that is commensurate with the fifth biggest economy on Earth.”
“British people have spoken up for democracy,” he said.