Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is said by The Times to be “embarrassed and angry” that his unpublished newspaper column setting out the case for Britain remaining in the EU was published by The Sunday Times yesterday.
The column was written for the Daily Telegraph on 19 February. He had reportedly already written a piece setting out why he was backing the Leave campaign, but apparently penned the alternative version whilst he wrestled with the decision.
Johnson announced he was backing Leave on 22 February.
The Tory MP was paid £275,000 a year for a weekly Daily Telegraph column until he was appointed Foreign Secretary by Theresa May in July.
The article was obtained by Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman and is contained in his forthcoming book “All Out War”.
Shipman does not reveal how he came to see the unpublished article. But The Times reveals today that Johnson sent it to his wife Marina Wheeler and to Will Walden (his current director of communications) and Ben Wallace MP.
Johnson told Sky News: “Everybody was trying to make up their minds about whether or not to leave the European Union and it is perfectly true that back in February I was wrestling with it, like I think a lot of people in this country, and I wrote a long piece which came down overwhelmingly in favour of leaving.
“I then thought I better see if I can make the alternative case for myself so I then wrote a sort of semi-parodic article in the opposite sense, which has mysteriously found its way into the paper this morning because I think I might have sent it to a friend.”
Johnson wrote in his unpublished article: “This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms. The membership fee seems rather small for all that access. Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?”
The Times reports that Johnson was “assured by a colleague” the article would not be published for “years”.