Boris Johnson’s decision to snub an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers has not been received well in Brussels, with Britain-EU relations growing frosty as crucial Brexit negotiations approach.
The UK foreign secretary was invited to attend a meeting of his European counterparts on Sunday night, to discuss the shock election of Donald Trump and the implications it could have for the 28-nation bloc.
However, Johnson didn’t attend the meeting because he didn’t deem it necessary. The former London mayor called for an end to the “collective whinge-o-rama” and suggested the election of Trump would be a positive thing.
Federica Mogherini, an EU foreign policy chief, told Euronews that it would have been more of a surprise if Johnson had turned up, in the latest sign that good will between Britain and the EU is close to running out after the Brexit vote in June.
“Some in Europe are surprised not when that country is absent nowadays but when it is present around the table of 28,” Mogherini said. “So… I guess it’s only normal for the country that has decided to leave the EU not to be so interested in our discussions of the future of our relations with the US.”
It is not the first time that Johnson, whose primary job is to maintain good relations with Britain’s partners, has annoyed EU officials. Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, recently suggested that the Tory MP doesn’t understand the EU constitution, while the EU Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt accused Johnson of trying to undermine the EU’s security policy and backtracking on claims he made for the Leave campaign.
Theresa May’s government ought to take more care in how it deals with the 28-nation bloc, with historic Brexit negotiations set to get underway in March. The prime minister has vowed to get the “best possible” deal for the UK, but persuading the EU to agree to British demands won’t be made any easier if relations between the two entities are strained before official talks have even begun.
When Business Insider interviewed Verhofstadt last week, he said the EU’s negotiation position would be based on protecting the interests of the Union and its citizens, and totally ruled out agreeing to any Brexit package that would involve the bloc’s ‘four freedom’s being unravelled, meaning Britain will not be granted single market access if it places restrictions on immigration from EU member states.
Trump’s surprise victory raises a number of issues for the EU, not least the president-elect’s public admiration for Vladimir Putin at a time when tensions between Russia and the West are high. It also emerged on Sunday night that Stephen Bannon, Trump’s newly-appointed chief strategist, intends to work with French far-right and anti-EU party Front National.
Marion Le Pen, one of the party’s MPs and niece of leader Marine tweeted saying:
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