What Boris Johnson said: The other day a woman pitched up in my surgery in a state of indignation … No one was trying to understand her feelings about Brexit. No one was trying to bring her along. She felt so downcast, she said, that she was thinking of leaving the country – to Canada.
What he really meant: Canada, do you see? She was so upset about not being in the EU she was going to go to live in a country that is not and has never been in the EU. And they call Brexiteers stupid.
What he said: I recognised that feeling of grief, and alienation, because in the last 18 months I have heard the same sentiments so often, from friends, from family, from people hailing me abusively in the street – as is their right.
What he meant: Oh the troubles I have. People are rude to me in the street, but do I respond? I do not. I am the St Sebastian of the Leave campaign. Much put upon. Ever patient.
What he said: In some cases, alas, I detect a hardening of the mood, a deepening of the anger. I fear that some people are becoming ever more determined to stop Brexit, to reverse the referendum vote of 23 June 2016, and to frustrate the will of the people. I believe that would be a disastrous mistake that would lead to permanent and ineradicable feelings of betrayal.
What he meant: It is the only strong argument I have, so I shall flog it for all I’m worth. Democratic vote. Must be respected. And repeat.
What he said: Brexit can be grounds for much more hope than fear.
What he meant: If that sounds a bit tentative, I have an alternative draft of this speech in which I say, “Brexit can be grounds for much more fear than hope.” Never mind the facts, which do you think sounds better?
What he said: There are essentially three types of concern about the momentous choice the nation has made: strategic, spiritual and economic.
What he meant: If I make this sound like an academic seminar, people might think I have an intellectual argument to make rather than an extended bluster.
What he said: Sometimes these economic anxieties are intensified by the other fears – about identity or security – so that hitherto recondite concepts like the single market or the customs union acquire unexpected emotive power.
What he meant: I had no real idea what the single market and the customs union were during the referendum campaign and I am a bit irritated by hard Remainers who have become such nerdy experts on them now. Can’t they just get with the programme?
What he said: I can see that in making this case now I run the risk of simply causing further irritation. But I must take that risk because it is this government’s duty to advocate and explain the mission on which we are now engaged.
What he meant: Some people might suggest that Theresa May’s strengths do not include advocacy and explanation. Nothing could be further from the truth, but other leading members of the Government need to step up and support her as she prepares to hand over power to someone better able to communicate the Brexit mission.
What he said: It is not good enough to say to Remainers – you lost, get over it; because we must accept that the vast majority are actuated by entirely noble sentiments, a real sense of solidarity with our European neighbours and a desire for the UK to succeed.
What he meant: You lost. Get over it.
What he said: We have a bigger diaspora than any other rich nation – six million points of light scattered across an intermittently darkening globe. There are more British people living in Australia than in the whole of the EU, and more in the US and Canada.
What he meant: Poetry, soaring rhetoric and a dismissive sideswipe at the EU. What more could the 48 per cent want?
What he said: Brexit is about re-engaging this country with its global identity, and all the energy that can flow from that. And I absolutely refuse to accept the suggestion that it is some un-British spasm of bad manners. It’s not some great V-sign from the cliffs of Dover.
What he meant: It is some great V-sign from the cliffs of Dover, but I am trying to apologise on behalf of my Faragiste colleagues in the embarrassingly wide Leave coalition.
What he said: It is the expression of a legitimate and natural desire for self-government of the people, by the people, for the people. And that is surely not some reactionary Faragiste concept.
What he meant: Well, not just some reactionary Faragiste concept.
What he said: It is to fulfil the liberal idealism of John Stuart Mill himself, who recognised that it is only the nation – as he put it, “united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between themselves and others” that could legitimate the state.
What he meant: Jolly good find, this. Top quality work by one of my researchers. Put that in your pipes you 48ers and see how you like it.
What he said: EU law is a special type of law, unlike anything else on earth. It is not just about business convenience. It is expressly teleological. It is there to achieve a political goal. The aim is … to create an overarching European state as the basis for a new sense of European political identity.
What he meant: The more long words I put in the less Ukippy it sounds, n’est-ce pas?
What he said: How many in this room know … the name of their Euro-MP? And that is the point I sometimes make to those who hail me in the street with cheery four-letter epithets. At least they know roughly who I am and roughly what I do.
What he meant: Not only am I a martyr to the roughness of the Anglo-Saxon peasantry, but my fame goes before me and will in the end carry me to the highest place.
What he said: If we wanted to find the person responsible for drafting the next phase of EU integration … we wouldn’t know where to find them, let alone how to remove them from office. That is why people voted Leave – not because they were hostile to European culture and civilisation, but because they wanted to take back control.
What he meant: We would, as a nation, have a veto over any future integration, but this is one of my most plausible-sounding arguments and I don’t have many of them.
What he said: We would be mad to go through this process of extrication from the EU, and not to take advantage of the economic freedoms it will bring. We will stop paying huge sums to the EU every year and as the PM has said, this will leave us with more to spend on our domestic priorities, including the NHS.
What he meant: How to persuade wavering Remainers? I know, I’ll refer to the £350m a week for the NHS that was on the side of the bus.
What he said: We do not want to haul up the drawbridge; and we certainly don’t want to deter the international students who make such a huge contribution to our higher education economy.
What he meant: We want to haul up the drawbridge; and we are a bit embarrassed about the effect on our universities.
What he said: To those who worry about coming out of the customs union or the single market – please bear in mind that the economic benefits of membership are nothing like as conspicuous or irrefutable as is sometimes claimed.
What he meant: Nearly all economists agree that making trade more difficult would leave us poorer, but I shall use some long words.
What he said: We are a nation of inventors, designers, scientists, architects, lawyers, insurers, water slide testers, toblerone cabinet makers.
What he meant: After Brexit we will still be world leaders in making funny lists.
What he said: We might decide that it was indeed absolutely necessary for every environmental impact assessment to monitor two life cycles of the snail and build special swimming pools for newts – not all of which they use – but it would at least be our decision.
What he meant: We should have put that on the side of the bus: “Newts don’t use all their swimming pools – let’s use them for schools instead.”
What he said: And indeed no one should think that Brexit is some economic panacea, any more than it is right to treat it as an economic pandemic. On the contrary, the success of Brexit will depend on what we make of it.
What he meant: Brexit is not as bad as some people say, and if we’re all cheerful about it we will get through it.
What he said: I say in all candour that if there were to be a second vote I believe that we would simply have another year of wrangling and turmoil and feuding in which the whole country would lose. So let’s not go there.
What he meant: Too much trouble, basically.
What he said: We love to run ourselves down – in fact we are Olympic gold medal winners in the sport of national self-deprecation
What he meant: Buck up, miseryguts.