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Johnson hits back at former premiers over Brexit remarks

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson speaks at the British Chambers of Commerce conference in London on February 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says he is becoming “impatient” with those projecting doom and gloom for Brexit, lashing back at two former prime ministers who rebuked the government's approach towards leaving the European Union.

Johnson made the comments during a speech to the British Chambers of Commerce in London on Tuesday without a direct reference to recent anti-Brexit remarks by former premiers Tony Blair and John Major.

"You know sometimes when I hear people moaning and droning about the state of the world, I get a bit impatient. And when I hear them warn that the sky is about to fall on our heads, I feel like saying, come off it sunshine," the foreign secretary said.

Johnson stressed that London will not shirk its responsibilities in Europe after Brexit and is determined to continue cooperation with the European countries on security. He added that "global Britain is a more safer Britain, a more successful Britain, above all, a more prosperous Britain."

He described the outcome of Britain’s divorce from the EU as “fantastic," saying Brexit presents an “unrivaled opportunity” for a new free trade deal with the 28-member bloc. However, he admitted that the deal could take longer than two years to negotiate. “I think it’s very important that as we set out on this journey we are positive about the outcome for the very good reason the outcome will be fantastic for this country."

“We have every reason as a nation to be confident. Many of you were wise enough not to believe those forecasts of the calamity [in the run up to the EU referendum],” Johnson noted. “Since June the skies have not opened up. We are right up there. The investment continues to flood in.”

Former British Prime Minister John Major speaks about Britain and Europe's future at Chatham House in London on February 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Johnson made the remarks after Major criticized Prime Minister Theresa May and her government's policies regarding Brexit on Monday, saying that the British people have been misled by “rosy confidence” about “sky high” hopes that may never be realized.

Major, who was in office between 1990 and 1997, called on May to be “realistic,” and approach the deal  with “a little more charm, and a lot less cheap rhetoric.”

Blair, the former Labour premier, also recently called on British people to "rise up" against leaving the EU, accusing Britons of voting “without knowledge of the terms of Brexit," He suggested that the public were entitled to change their minds on the Leave vote.

Johnson was a staunch supporter of Brexit in the run-up to the last year’s referendum, while Blair was fiercely against leaving the union during his tenure as prime minister between 1997 and 2007.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressing a news conference in London on July 06, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

In a landmark referendum held on June 23 last year, nearly 52 percent of British voters, amounting to more than 17 million citizens, opted to leave the EU, a decision that sent shock waves throughout the world. However, recent polls show that most Britons would vote to remain in the EU if another referendum were to be held.

Prime Minister May has promised to begin the Brexit process in March and complete it by 2019. The EU has warned that Britain would have less than 18 months to reach a deal to exit the bloc once Brexit negotiations begin.

Experts have warned that leaving the EU will severely hurt London’s position as a financial hub, unless the UK decides to keep its access to the single EU market by loosening its stance on immigration.

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