Margaret Thatcher was ‘tricksy about EU’, says Boris Johnson

Polls suggest the UK Independence Party is on course for major gains in those elections, leaving mainstream political parties struggling to explain its popularity.

Some Ukip voters say they back the party because older political parties have persistently ignored public opinion on issues like Europe.

Mr Johnson echoed that conclusion in his remarks about the behaviour of earlier governments.

His time in Brussels, in the first years after the fall of the Berlin wall, saw significant moves to increase political integration between members of the EU.

In 1993, the European single market was formally completed, guaranteeing freedom of movement for goods and labour throughout the EU.

The same year saw the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, which laid the foundations of the single European currency.

Through many of those events, British ministers repeatedly gave a false impression to voters about their European negotiations, Mr Johnson said.

“They were continually pretending to the people of this country that they were standing firm against the Commission and the other countries attempting to harmonise and regulate everything,” he said.

“Whereas in reality they would always go out there and do deals and capitulate.”

Mr Johnson, an admirer of many of Lady Thatcher’s achievements, said that she was one of the Conservatives who had been guilty of misleading accounts of European deals.

The former prime minister is remembered by many supporters as a staunch opponent of European integration who frequently clashed with other European leaders.

Mr Johnson said that the reality was more complex, suggesting that Lady Thatcher’s rhetoric often masked a more conciliatory approach.

“Even Margaret Thatcher, famously rebarbative about the EU, even she and some of her immediate advisers could be quite tricksy about what was really going on.”

David Cameron has faced accusations of feeding public scepticism over Europe, by promising a referendum on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty then abandoning the plan when the treaty was incorporated into European law.

To address that scepticism, the Prime Minister has said that a Conservative government would offer voters an In/Out referendum on the EU.

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