Only in ‘Brexit La La land’ is Johnson leading opposition to Putin, ex-Finnish prime minister says

Alexander Stubb says claim is ‘utter rubbish’ and dismisses ‘Global Britain’ idea

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Monday 21 March 2022 11:00 GMT
Boris Johnson called ‘distasteful and shameless’ for Ukraine war and Brexit comparison

A former Finnish prime minister has dismissed claims Boris Johnson is leading opposition to Vladimir Putin as "illusion" and "utter rubbish".

Alexander Stubb, whose country shares a 1,340km border with Russia, said only in "Brexit la la land" was the British PM seen as having "taken a lead globally".

"This idea about 'Global Britain' is as true as 'peaceful Russia'," the conservative ex-leader said.

"Simply utter rubbish, to put it diplomatically. To claim that ⁦Boris Johnson 'has taken a lead globally in standing up to Putin' is an illusion only possible in Brexit la la land."

His intervention comes after Mr Johnson sparked fury by likening Ukraine's struggle against the Russian invasion to Brexit.

Donald Tusk, a former president of the European Council, dismissed Mr Johnson's comments at the Tory spring conference as offensive to Ukrainians, the British people, and "common sense" itself.

But Sajid Javid, the UK health secretary, endorsed claims Mr Johnson had taken a lead on television on Monday morning.

“When it comes to Boris Johnson and Ukraine, it’s hard to find any world leader that’s done more to support Ukraine at this time," Mr Javid told the BBC Breakfast programme.

The UK has sent arms to Ukraine and sanctioned Russian individuals and entities – but has been criticised for being slower to crack down on Kremlin-linked money than Europe.

Britain is also the only major European country not to have a full open door policy for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, and has so far taken fewer refugees than its neighbours.

Mr Johnson will visit Brussels on Thursday for a Nato summit, but he has not been invited to attend an EU leaders’ summit on the same day.

His absence comes despite US president Joe Biden being expected to attend the meeting. The prime minister gave up his automatic seat on the European Council when he left the EU.

Mr Johnson told the Tory spring conference in Blackpool over the weekend: "I know that it's the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time. I can give you a couple of famous recent examples.

"When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don't believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners.

"It's because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself."

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