Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Boris Johnson attacks Brexit plans and praises Trump in leaked remarks

The foreign secretary described current Brexit negotiations as in "meltdown"

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on June 7, 2018
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on June 7, 2018

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attacked Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit policy at a private dinner where he said Britain’s approach should to be more like the one Donald Trump would take.

A recording of Mr Johnson’s comments, made to a dinner of around 20 people Wednesday evening, was leaked to Buzzfeed and the Times. It showed him saying:

  • There “may now be a meltdown” in negotiations, but “I don’t want anybody to panic” because “It’s going to be all right in the end.”
  • There was a strong chance Brexit talks would leave the U.K. “locked in orbit around the EU, in the customs union and to a large extent still in the single market.”
  • The argument at the center of government about Brexit was “very, very difficult.”
  • Mrs May is about to begin being “much more combative” with the EU.
  • That this would be unacceptable if it were permanent. He would accept temporary closeness to the EU, so long as Britain eventually got far away.
  • That Philip Hammond’s Treasury was still fighting Brexit, describing it as “basically the heart of Remain.”
  • Warning of difficulties at borders after Brexit are “nonsense” and “mumbo jumbo.”
  • But there will be “bumps in the road.”
  • The government was placing too much emphasis on the issue of the Irish border, and “allowing the whole of our agenda to be dictated by this folly."


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The foreign secretary did have kind words for the US president, according to Buzzfeed. “I am increasingly admiring of Donald Trump,” he said. “I have become more and more convinced that there is method in his madness. Imagine Mr Trump doing Brexit. He’d go in bloody hard. There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere.

  • “The Americans have run the tech world for decades. Microsoft, Google, Apple, blah, blah, blah – we’re used to them winning,” the foreign secretary said.
  • “No, no, no. The Chinese are about to win. They’ve got 5G. They’ve found out a way. Everybody’s going to be getting stuff on their gizmos through the Chinese system and not the American system. So watch out for that one.”

He also revealed that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had just asked him for British help dismantling North Korean nuclear weapons.

The leaked comments are the latest example of Mr Johnson’s tendency for loose talk, who since being appointed the UK’s top diplomat has warned the French against acting like war movie Nazis, tried to set a distinct Brexit policy from Mrs May, and made comments that risked landing a British mother being held in Iran with a longer jail sentence.

His office declined to comment.