Boris Johnson has dismissed as a “hoax” claims by the Treasury that 800,000 people would lose their jobs and that Britain would be plunged into a year-long recession following a a vote to leave the EU in June.
Speaking to journalists during a day of campaigning in York, he said: “These types of prophecies are just not credible. You have to ask yourself why the government would call a referendum, giving people the great historic choice, if they thought that was the case.
“It makes no sense at all. Nobody could conceivably take such a risk with this country, that’s not in my view believable. I think that the whole thing is a hoax.”
Johnson also said that George Osborne’s dire warnings ran the risk of becoming self-fulfilling prophesies. “What I would say is that my own feeling is that there is some risk now that the prophesies are so doom-laden that they are at risk of becoming self-fulfilling,” he said.
“I am worried that they are starting to talk Britain down quite significantly. I don’t think it’s necessary.”
Earlier in the day, Johnson chastised a student in York for bringing eggs to target him as his Brexit roadshow arrived in the city. Sam Grigg, a 22-year-old University of York student from Swanseaslipped one into the pocket of a Vote Leave campaigner.
Grigg had heckled Johnson, after he claimed that immigration had a catastrophic effect on hospital waiting lists and GP’s surgeries, shouting: “Fund the NHS properly then, you scum.” He had earlier being shouting that Johnson represented “everything that’s wrong with politics in this country.”
Johnson responded by saying: “There’s a young man here who had eggs he was going to throw at me, can you believe it? There are people hungry in this country, my friend. Don’t waste those eggs.”
Grigg later insisted he never planned to throw the eggs and was protesting against Conservative party policy.
In a brief speech, Johnson said the establishment was producing the most propaganda since 1992 “when they said that we couldn’t leave the European exchange rate mechanism”.
The former London mayor added: “They said it would be a disaster. They said interest rates would go up, they said it would be an economic catastrophe for the economy if we left the European exchange rate mechanism said. And what happened? It was a liberation for this economy.”
Johnson corrected a claim he made the other day that there was an EU directive on bananas. “The leave campaign got very angry and said I was wrong,” he said. “And I was wrong. There isn’t one directive, there are four directives on bananas, including on the curvature of bananas.”
Touring a racing car factory in Leeds, Johnson told workers that he had previously “made up” some of his journalism. Johnson confessed that he knew nothing about cars, despite serving as GQ’s car reviewer for a time.
He said: “Do you know, I just always used to make it all up? I had to write this motoring column for GQ magazine and I always used to go on about ‘crabbing pins’ and the ‘corn thruster’. I never had the faintest idea.”
Asked later why anyone should believe his predictions that there would not be a recession in the event of a Brexit, given his self acknowledged admissions of making things up, he defended the GQ columns.
“They were essentially an artistic and rhapsodic production of the joys of motoring. I was not, specifically not, hired by GQ to give a serious analysis of cars,” he said.
He said David Cameron himself had warned against “scaremongering” before coming out to stay in Europe: “The government’s prognostications of doom have got to be seen in the light of what they’ve said in the past – where the Treasury has repeatedly got things wrong – and in the light of the prime minister’s much more credible assurances that upon a departure from the European Union we would readily do free trade deals around the world and that we have nothing to be afraid of.”
Johnson added: “I see no evidence whatever there will be a recession, I really don’t. It’s totally made up and I think it’s started to be excessively negative and I think they are in danger of talking this country down.”
This article was written by Helen Pidd North of England correspondent, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 24th May 2016 01.20 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010