The way British ministers like Boris Johnson are approaching Brexit is really starting to bug senior politicians across the continent.
Johnson, who was appointed Foreign Secretary by Theresa May as part of her cabinet reshuffle, is one a handful of Tory MPs who are responsible for negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Last week, Johnson described the idea that Britain will not be allowed any access to the single market if it refuses to accept the free movement of people as part of its exit deal as “complete baloney.”
This is despite some of the 28-nation bloc’s most senior officials, like Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker and EU Parliament’s Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, making it clear that Britain will not be able to secure this kind of Brexit deal.
Johnson’s comments have not been received well.
Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, suggested Johnson should read a copy of the Lisbon treaty to become familiar with the basic principles of the EU’s constitution.
“We’ll happily send her majesty’s foreign minister a copy of the Lisbon treaty,” Schäuble said.
“He can then read about the fact that there’s a certain connection between the single market and the four freedoms. At a pinch, I can talk about it in English.”
A source close to Schäuble’s office claimed the minister’s outburst was totally out of character. Speaking to the Financial Times, the source said: “This is not just Schäuble. There is irritation across the government.”
Marco Piantini, a senior adviser to Italian premier minister Matteo Renzi, criticised the amount of importance British politicians have placed on the issue of immigration.
“If it’s about negotiation, building walls is not a great tactic. I wonder how much this would have to do with the logic of the free market,” said Renzi.
Then there is Michael Fuchs, a senior minister in Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union party, who accused Britain of expecting the EU to simply adhere to its demands: “I’m a fan of the UK, but the British must agree to meet us on an equal footing. They can’t simply do what they wish and expect us to go along with them.”
It looks like Britain’s divorce from the EU is becoming more confrontational as the the EU and May’s government struggle to reach a compromise over what would represent an acceptable deal.