Boris Johnson has defended Donald Trump’s presidency as a “moment of opportunity”, after a row broke out in Brussels over the Foreign Secretary’s failure to attend an EU meeting on the shock US election result.
Mr Johnson said there was much to be positive about for Britain and Europe as he arrived for a regular meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.
But after snubbing an earlier meeting hastily convened to discuss the impact of Mr Trump’s victory as a “whinge-o-rama”, he was attacked by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.
Arriving in Brussels, Mr Johnson said on Monday: “I think there is a lot to be positive about and it is very important not to prejudge the President-elect or his administration.
“It’s only a few days since the election has taken place. I think we all need to wait and see what they come up with. But I think we should regard it as a moment for opportunity.
“Donald Trump is a dealmaker and I think that could be a good thing for Britain, but it could also be a good thing for Europe and that, I think, is what we need to focus on today.”
Ms Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, claimed other nations were unsurprised by Mr Johnson’s absence at the Trump meeting.
She said: “A couple of ministers were not coming for political reasons, one in particular, you know that well.
“But I can also share with you that some in Europe are surprised, not when that country is absent, but nowadays that it is still present around the table of the 28.
“So, I guess it is only normal for a country that has decided to leave the European Union not to be so interested in our discussions on the future of our relations with the US.”
Ms Mogherini described the EU’s Trump meeting as “very fruitful” and stressed that the bloc will continue to be partners with the US.
She said: “We have decided together to engage with the incoming administration even from these very first weeks of transition.
“Obviously we will continue to work day and night with the current administration but also preparing the ground for the change in administration from January, and I will be glad to not only visit Washington soon but also invite the future Secretary of State to one of our next Foreign Affairs Council.”
Mr Johnson was the first foreign politician to receive a phone call from US Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Friday after the election result.
Less than 24 hours earlier, he had spoken in the Serbian capital, Belgarde, telling EU leaders that they needed to get over the shock of Mr Trump’s win and look to the future.
He said: “I would respectfully say to my beloved European friends and colleagues that it’s time that we snapped out of the general doom and gloom about the result of this election and collective ‘whinge-o-rama’ that seems to be going on in some places.”
The full EU foreign affairs council started Monday, while Theresa May faced pressure from within her cabinet to utilise Ukip’s Nigel Farage to build connections with the Trump team.
Mr Farage became the first foreign politician to meet Mr Trump since his election victory, and claimed that members of the US leader’s team had concerns about negative comments previously made by some members of the Prime Minister’s team.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies