Boris Johnson: ‘Sensible’ Brexit will strengthen the Union

Boris Johnson has claimed that “a sensible, pragmatic Brexit” will cement Scotland’s place within the UK, as he sought to position himself as a firm defender of the Union while on a visit north of the Border.

The favourite to replace Theresa May as the next leader of the Conservative party also said the result of the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence was “decisive” and should be respected.

But he refused to give an explicit commitment to block a second independence referendum for Scotland if he becomes the next prime minister.

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When asked if he would rule out such a vote, Mr Johnson would only say that “we should stick to that promise” that the referendum would be a once-in-a-generation event.

Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to BAE System in Govan. Picture: PA

Mr Johnson visited the BAE Systems shipyard in Govan today before travelling via helicopter to Perth for a Tory party hustings.

The MP spoke with shipyard staff about on-going work to build the Type 26 frigate, the first of which is currently under construction.

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Speaking to the media in Govan, Mr Johnson was asked if he would rule out a second independence referendum - even if the SNP campaigned on the subject ahead of the 2021 Holyrood elections and won an outright majority of MSPs.

He said: “What I would say is we had a referendum in 2014, I remember it well, I obviously campaigned on the side of the Union and I believe in it passionately.

“People voted then and they were assured that their votes were decisive. They were told this was a once in a generation thing and I think we should stick to that point.”

Earlier today Jeremy Hunt, Mr Johnson’s rival for the Tory leadership, said the answer would be a “polite no” if the Scottish Government did request a Section 30 order to hold another referendum.

Pressed on whether his priority was delivering Brexit or preserving the Union, Mr Johnson said: “The Union must come first. I believe also that a good, sensible pragmatic Brexit will strengthen the Union. Look at it this way, if we come out of the EU in the way we all hope, and we get a good deal, then I’m going to ask you: what are the SNP, the breakaway party, what are they going to say then? Do they really want Scotland to join the Euro? To join Schengen? To submit to the whole of EU laws? It doesn’t sound like a winning formula.”

The Tory leadership frontunner also claimed he would visit Scotland “at the earliest possible opportunity” if he did replace Mrs May as prime minister.