Ex-BBC political presenter Andrew Neil, 72, appeared to accuse Boris Johnson, 57, of failing to take full advantage of the UK’s departure from the Brussels bloc. Mr Neil, who resigned as lead presenter and chairman of GB News in September, went on to highlight for the Prime Minister one “unglamorous” and “complicated” way the UK can reach “the promise of Brexit”.
Writing in the Daily Mail, the Glasgow-born journalist listed how Brexit Britain was beginning to look like a continental state by hiking taxes and increasing the size of the state.
“It doesn’t get more European than that,” he said.
But Neil then went on to highlight how breaking free from Brussels has helped the UK approve and procure COVID-19 vaccines outside of the EU’s “sluggish regulatory processes”, enabled Swiss shares to be traded on the London stock market, seen the UK introduce a points-based immigration system, create freeports, end VAT on women’s sanitary products and even reform alcohol duties.
However, the veteran journalist, who once said on Twitter his wife doesn’t even know how or if he voted in the 2016 referendum, added the one way the UK can “transform” post-Brexit is through regulatory reform.
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“We could start by scrapping the EU’s onerous GDPR rules on digital privacy,” the Spectator chairman said.
Mr Neil added: “If we had fewer, better regulations covering cutting-edge technologies such as gene therapy, cyber security, digital investment, artificial intelligence, robotics and medical advances — areas in which we are already ahead of the EU —then the chances of a genuine Brexit dividend become possible.”
In an attack on Mr Johnson’s Government, he concluded: “If we fail, it will be because the current Johnson Government, despite being full of those who led the Brexit charge from the top down, in 2021 inexplicably rushed headlong in the wrong direction.”
Mr Johnson has come under mounting pressure in recent weeks after No10 were hit by reports Downing Street held festive parties last Christmas.
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He then suffered yet another setback when Tory backbenchers launched a rebellion against the Prime Minister on Covid passes.
His problems were confounded last Thursday with the defeat of the once-safe Tory seat of North Shropshire to the Liberal Democrats.
Despite a torrid time, Mr Johnson can often look to Brexit to see his successes, including the 2016 campaign when he worked with Vote Leave and the 2019 General Election when he was elected with a colossal 80-seat Conservative majority to ‘Get Brexit Done’.
But looking back at the referendum campaign, Neil challenged the proponents of both Leave and Remain.
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For Eurosceptics, he pointed out how Leave campaigners said nothing about a £40billion divorce bill, shied away from addressing potential problems in Northern Ireland and had delivered a free trade deal with the EU which he described as “far less efficient” than membership of the Single Market.
However, for Europhiles, including the then Chancellor George Osborne, 50, Neil claimed much of ‘Project Fear’ has failed to materialise and highlighted how Airbus is “investing more than ever” and any Brexodus of jobs in the City of London has been “dwarfed” by the hundreds of thousands created since 2016.
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