Boris Johnson has left national newspaper editors salivating once again today after he revealed grandiose visions of a bridge to Ireland in his Brexit plans.
In an interview with the Sunday Times the former Foreign Secretary and Mayor of London lashed out at the Prime Minister’s Brexit blueprint, saying the UK should build a bridge to Ireland and put the HS2 rail line on hold to focus on a high-speed link in the north of England.
Appearing on television this morning David Davis said Johnson’s policies are “good headlines” but not more – saying the plan to bridge to Ireland is one of many “fantastic ideas that cost a fortune and don’t do any good”.
And he would be right. Johnson has a long history of courting the newspapers with outlandish policies that deliver lots of fame but little fortune from a political perspective.
His tenure as London Mayor was littered with time wasting, money squandering ideas that seldom made their way off the drawing board.
Some £3.2 million was spent on drawing up plans for an Estuary Airport despite it costing five times more to build than the three other short-listed options and sitting on Europe’s biggest LNG importation terminal. Richard Deakin, chief executive of the National Air Traffic Services (Nats), also said at the time that the proposed location would be the ‘very worst spot’ for the south-east’s crowded airspace, adding there were ‘serious challenges’ in working more planes into an already busy flight path.
But that didn’t stop Johnson frittering away vast sums of money bringing the idea to the table to ensure he got the publicity for it. Much like his London garden bridge project that collapsed in acrimony last year after shelling out £37 million for it. The “garden paradise” was canned by Sadiq Khan who said he could not justify the £200 million construction, but he couldn’t rescue the money spent under his predecessor’s tenure.
Which brings us back to Ireland. The ambitious “Brexit bridge” connecting Scotland and Northern Ireland would cost £15 billion to build and is being dubbed by Johnson as a potential solution to the tricky Irish question. But it isn’t a solution at all.
Like most of his policies it has been included as a distraction from the fact that Johnson has no idea how to navigate Britain out of Europe successfully. While we talk about ambitious infrastructure ideas Ministers have rubbished his plans as “not workable or negotiable”. Rather they are fanciful, overzealous and at times absurd.
Johnson may have his face on all of the front pages ahead of the Tory Party conference but once again he has proved that he is all publicity and no policy with his erratic Brexit plans. Theresa May’s noisy neighbour isn’t likely to go quietly into the night just yet, but as long as he’s confined to tabloid inches and out of decision-making positions we should be safe for now.