Boris Johnson debut as the UK’s foreign secretary was preceded by an unscheduled descent of his plane to a runway lined by fire crews. He would be late for a meeting with Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief.
As reported by the BBC, heading to a working breakfast with his 27 fellow foreign ministers early on July 18, the new foreign secretary did not duck the inevitability, as he sees it, of Britain leaving the European Union. He took care to stress once again his central message – that British exit from the EU is not the same as Britain leaving Europe.
The trouble is that many of his EU counterparts do feel those two are the same, and it is awkward for the man who led the Brexit campaign to victory that some of his campaigning rhetoric still haunts him.
According to the BBC, comparing the EU’s alleged ambitions – the creation of a superstate – to those of Hitler, as Boris Johnson did in May, even if he said their methods were different, was judged spectacularly offensive.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said Johnson “lied a lot” to turn British public opinion against the EU. He vowed to speak to the new foreign secretary “with the greatest sincerity and frankness”.
Later, he told a news conference that Johnson had behaved with “a certain modesty” at his first EU meeting.
The Reuters news agency reported that Johnson said on July 19 it would take far too long for him to apologise for the “rich thesaurus” of rude comments and insults he has directed at world leaders and others over the years.
Appearing at a London news conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Johnson was asked if he was going to apologize for his disobliging remarks about world leaders.
“We can spend an awfully long time going over lots of stuff that I’ve written over the last 30 years… all of which in my view has been taken out of context, but never mind, some serious issues call us today,” Johnson said.