The UK’s former foreign secretary insisted that it is essential that Britain finally leaves the EU at the end of October to prevent the mood of “disillusion, even despair” in the country from spreading.
He warned failure that to honour the referendum vote risked handing power to Jeremy Corbyn and Labour at the next British general election.
“Delay means defeat. Delay means Corbyn. Kick the can and we kick the bucket.”
His launch took place as a cross-party alliance of MPs prepared a fresh attempt to use Commons procedure to block a no-deal Brexit.
When challenged by a reporter about past comments, including saying Muslim women wearing burkas “look like letter boxes”, Mr Johnson said: “I want to make a general point about the way I do things and the language I use.
“Occasionally some plaster comes off the ceiling as a result of a phrase I may have used, or the way that phrase has been wrenched out of context by those who wish for reasons of their own to caricature.
“But I think it’s vital for us as politicians to remember that one of the reasons that the public feels alienated now from us all as a breed, is because too often they feel that we are muffling and veiling our language, not speaking as we find – covering everything up in bureaucratic platitudes, when what they want to hear is what we genuinely think.”
Asked about a previous confession that he had taken cocaine at university, Mr Johnson said: “I think the account of this event when I was 19 has appeared many, many times.
“I think what most people in this country want us to really focus on in this campaign, if I may say so, is what we can do for them and what our plans are for this great country of ours.”
Mr Johnson’s Conservative leadership rival Rory Stewart tweeted: “On reflection I am beginning to think there are only 2 candidates who can beat Boris – me, and Boris himself.”
On reflection I am beginning to think there are only 2 candidates who can beat Boris – me, and Boris himself.
— Rory Stewart (@RoryStewartUK) June 12, 2019
Mr Johnson, answering a question about his commitment to Brexit, added: “The real existential threat that I now think faces both parties if we fail to get this thing done. And I think that in the end maturity and a sense of duty will prevail.
“It will be very difficult in the end for colleagues in Parliament to obstruct the will of the people and to block Brexit.
“They (the public) returned a very clear answer by a substantial majority.”
Mr Johnson clarified he would stand up for all businesses when asked about his “f*** business” comments.
Mr Johnson said: “I don’t think there is anybody in the modern Conservative Party who can honestly be said to have done more to stick up for business, even in the toughest of times.”
He added: “I will stick up for them.”
He said he had spent a lot of time as Britain’s Foreign Secretary promoting British business.
Mr Johnson added: “I am not going to pretend to you now that everything will be plain sailing.
“There will be difficulties and there will be bumps in the road, but my team will hit the ground running.
“A sensible, orderly Brexit that allows this country to flourish as a great, independent nation.”