Brexit: Chief EU negotiator condemns Boris Johnson's 'abhorrent' Nazi comparison

Guy Verhofstadt has responded to Boris Johnson's suggestion that French President François Hollande ‘wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who seeks to escape [the EU], in the manner of some World War Two movie’

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 18 January 2017 15:58
Comments
Boris Johnson attacks French President using Nazi comparison

The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator has slammed Boris Johnson after he suggested the President of France might be considering Nazi-style “punishment beatings” on Britain for wanting to leave the EU.

Guy Verhofstadt said the comments made by the Foreign Secretary about François Hollande are “abhorrent and deeply unhelpful” as the UK and EU prepare for sensitive talks to determine Britain's future relations with the bloc.

Downing Street was also dragged into the embarrassing row, being forced to defend Mr Johnson by saying the remarks were “theatrical”, adding “he was in no way suggesting that anyone was a Nazi”.

In characteristically unconventional remarks made in India, Mr Johnson said Mr Hollande might want “to administer punishment beatings to anybody who seeks to escape [the EU], in the manner of some World War Two movie”.

Shortly after, Mr Verhofstadt tweeted: “Yet more abhorrent & deeply unhelpful comments from @BorisJohnson which PM May should condemn.”

Jeremy Corbyn's spokesman attacked the Foreign Secretary for having “a habit of making wild and inappropriate comments”.

He added: “Talking about World War Two in that context is another one of those and that is not going to be something that is going to improve the climate for this negotiation.”

Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said: “This is an utterly crass and clueless remark from the man who is supposed to be our chief diplomat.”

But responding to the furore, Theresa May's official spokeswoman claimed Mr Johnson was simply “making a point” about other EU leaders approaching Brexit in a punitive way.

Israel diplomat calls Boris Johnson an 'idiot'

She said: “He was in no way suggesting that anyone was a Nazi. If anything, this falls within the category the PM used yesterday of a hyped-up media report.”

During her speech on Tuesday, Ms May accused parts of the media of embellishing stories about the Government's Brexit plans, while eschewing the tight-lipped disciplined approach she and her ministers had taken in recent weeks.

But asked on Wednesday if she would accept that Mr Johnson was at least referencing German World War Two camps in his comments, Ms May's spokeswoman explained: “I think he was making a theatrical comparison to those evocative World War movies that people have seen.”

She indicated that she would not characterise his words as a “stray comment”, and would not say that it was inappropriate or that the Foreign Secretary should apologise.

Asked if Ms May might use similar words to Mr Johnson's, she added: “They've got different styles.”

A spokesman for the Foreign Secretary said: “He was not suggesting anyone was a Nazi and the word never passed his lips. He was simply saying that treating Britain harshly for trying to leave the EU makes no sense.”

Mr Johnson's full comments were: “If Mr Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who seeks to escape [the EU], in the manner of some World War Two movie, I don’t think that is the way forward, and it’s not in the interests of our friends and partners.

“It seems absolutely incredible to me that, in the 21st century, member states of the EU should be seriously contemplating the reintroduction of tariffs or whatever to administer punishment to the UK.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in