Raised eyebrows at Boris Johnson's appointment as Foreign Secretary

Raised eyebrows at Boris Johnson's appointment as Foreign Secretary

SBS World News Radio: The appointment of Boris Johnson as Britain's new foreign secretary has met with a degree of criticism internationally and locally.

Many have expressed surprise at the appointment, citing Mr Johnson's history of controversial comments.

The former Mayor of London has managed to insult or ridicule a number of world leaders including United States President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and both US presidential candidates.

He once described Hillary Clinton as a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital and, earlier this year, wrote a poem considered sexually offensive about Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

The move by new British Prime Minister Theresa May to appoint Mr Johnson could shake up world diplomacy, with the former London mayor having never held a cabinet post.

Mr Johnson says he understands there is still a level of shock over Britain's exit from the European Union and his subsequent appointment.

"After a vote like the referendum result on June 23rd it was inevitable there was going to be a certain amount of plaster coming off the ceiling in the chancelleries of Europe. It wasn't the result they were expecting and clearly they are making their views known in a frank and free way."

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is one of those making known their views about Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson was accused of misleading voters by claiming that Britain was paying billion of dollars to the EU that could be spent on the National Health Service.

Critics of Mr Johnson say the figure did not take account of London's budget rebate, nor of EU spending on public and private sector projects in the UK.

Mr Ayrault has asked how a man who told alleged lies as leader of the Leave campaign can be a credible foreign minister.

"I am not at all worried about Boris Johnson, you know very well what his style is, his method. During the campaign he lied a lot to the British people and now it is he who has his back against the wall, his back against the wall to defend his country but also with his back against the wall so this relationship with Europe should be clear."

Mr Johnson later said he'd received what he described as "a charming letter" from Mr Ayrault saying how much he looked forward to working together and to deepening Anglo-French cooperation.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to comment on Mr Johnson's elevation when asked as she visited Kyrgyzstan.

But her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has been critical of past comments by Mr Johnson comparing the European Union with Adolf Hitler and Napoleon, says Germany is willing to forget the past in order to work with Britain.

"You see that it's an advantage not to have such a great command of the English language. We in Germany have had good experience of filing away and forgetting comments made during a campaign the day after the democratic decision has been made."

United States Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says relations between the countries are strong and a new working relationship would be quickly established.

Boris Johnson, a former Daily Telegraph journalist in the 1980s and 90s, is expected to attend his first EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday.

 

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