The relationship between Britain’s Brexit ministers and the EU looks to have hit a new low, after Boris Johnson and David Davis were branded arrogant and clueless by officials with exit talks on the horizon.
In a particularly damning statement, EU parliamentarian Manfred Weber described Johnson as “unbelievable” and said that he had lost respect for the foreign secretary over contradictory statements he has made about Turkey.
Johnson argued during the Leave campaign that one of the reasons Brits should vote for Brexit is to avoid being part of a Union that would soon include Turkey, but in September said he would back Turkey’s bid for EU membership.
“It is unbelievable, frankly speaking. It is a provocation,” said Weber, a close ally of Angela Merkel, the Times reports.
“He [Johnson]… in the Brexit campaign, had leaflets showing Turkey, Syria and Iraq as possible members of the EU, making people afraid of the possible new migration waves… Then a few weeks afterwards he is travelling to [President] Erdogan and offering support for becoming a member of the EU. It is a purely arrogant provocation from Johnson when he is telling us what we have to do. I cannot respect anymore what he is doing.”
May’s decision to appoint Johnson as foreign secretary when she became prime minister surprised many, given the latter’s history of gaffes relating to other countries and their leaders. It is a move that looks be backfiring, with Johnson’s reputation among his European counterparts seemingly getting worse with each week that passes.
“This is no longer amusing. It is serious stuff,” a European ambassador told the Times. Research group British influence has spoken to ambassadors from all 27 EU member states and concluded that Johnson has a “wit that does not always travel well across the Channel.”
Last week, Italian minister Carlo Calenda said he felt insulted by Johnson after the Tory MP suggested Italy should push for Britain to remain in the European Single Market otherwise it would be forced to sell less prosecco. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Johnson’s German counterpart, told colleagues that he couldn’t stand to be in the same room as the British minister, according to a Financial Times report.
Another frustration among EU officials is the mystery surrounding what Britain actually wants from Brexit. “I didn’t hear anything new,” Weber said after meeting with Davis on Tuesday. “Among them there is no idea what Brexit really means.”
In the same meeting, Davis reportedly indicated that UK government’s desire is to remain in the European Single Market, the sort of Brexit deal pretty much every senior EU official has ruled out as long as Theresa May wants to restrict inward migration from the 28-nation bloc. Johnson said the same thing when he spoke to Calenda last week, according to the Italian minister.
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