EU alarmed by Johnson, again
Pro-Brexit Boris Johnson is proving gaffe-prone. Source: Flickr
London was forced to defend its foreign affairs minister, Boris Johnson, after he warned French President François Hollande not to respond to Brexit with “punishment beatings” like in “some World War Two movie”.
Johnson rejected comments from a Hollande adviser who said the UK should not expect a better trading relationship outside Europe than it currently had inside.
From a foreign policy conference in Delhi, Johnson said: “If Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who seeks to escape [the EU], in the manner of some World War Two movie, I don’t think that is the way forward. It’s not in the interests of our friends and partners.”
Prime Minister Theresa May this week called on her cabinet to avoid “any stray word” which could make securing a Brexit deal with the rest of the EU more difficult.
Guy Verhofstadt, the principal Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament, branded the comments “abhorrent and deeply unhelpful”.
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “This is an utterly crass and clueless remark from the man who is supposed to be our chief diplomat. I assume Boris Johnson says these things to deflect from the utter shambles this Brexit government is in over its plans to take Britain out of the single market. But this kind of distasteful comment only serves to unite Europe further against Britain at a time we need friends more than ever.”
Amid this fresh crisis, Johnson is being sent to address one of Southeast Asia’s most delicate humanitarian situations.
Johnson is due in Myanmar today where he will reportedly press Aung San Suu Kyi to end the persecution of Rohingya Muslims and allow aid groups to reach refugees.
The UK government has been reluctant to blame its former resident Suu Kyi for the persecution of the Rohingya in troubled Rakhine State. She has relatively limited influence in border area compared with the military.
More significantly Johnson is due to raise the Rohingya with the military’s commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing.
Britain’s Foreign Office minister Alok Sharma told the UK parliament: “Clearly it is the army that is acting in the areas where there are humanitarian issues.”
The junta-drafted 2008 Constitution gives the military control of the three most powerful ministries: home, defence and border affairs and 25 per cent of parliamentary seats, allowing it to veto constitutional changes.