Former Times foreign editor Martin Fletcher has claimed Boris Johnson, in his former role as a Brussels correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, helped create a narrative for Brexit.
In a comment piece in the New York Times , published online yesterday, he claims the Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip made his name in Brussels “with extreme Euroscepticism, tirelessly attacking, mocking and denigrating the European Union”.
Fletcher, who was appointed to report on the European Union for The Times in 1999 shortly after Johnson had returned to London (he covered the Brussels beat from 1989 to 1994), says he had to “live with the consequences” of Johnson’s reporting approach.
He said the former Mayor of London’s dispatches on the EU were “undoubtedly colourful”, including writing about “European Union plans to take over Europe, ban Britain’s favourite potato chips, standardise condom sizes and blow up its own asbestos-filled headquarters”.
But he said: “By the time I arrived in Brussels, editors wanted only reports about faceless Eurocrats dictating the shape of the cucumbers that could be sold in Britain, or plots to impose a European superstate, or British prime ministers fighting plucky rear-guard actions against a hostile Continent.
“Much of the British press seemed unable to view the European Union through any other prism. These narratives reflected and exploited the innate nationalism, historical sense of superiority and disdain for Johnny Foreigner of many readers.”
Press Gazette analysis has shown that national newspapers have predominantly come out in favour of Britain leaving the EU. Britain goes to the polls tomorrow to vote on whether to leave or remain in the European Union.