He has the wild hair, the right-wing appeal and a history of outrageous statements. The UK’s new foreign minister, Boris Johnson, has been called ‘Britain’s Donald Trump’ and he is already creating controversy. Within hours of his promotion, the French foreign minister called him a liar, while French and German politicians called him ‘dangerous’, a ‘French-basher’ and ‘hated’.
Johnson was the leading campaigner for the UK to leave the European Union. He compared the EU to Napoleon and Hitler and echoed Trump’s language, promising to ‘take back our country’. During the campaign, Johnson criticized President Obama’s ‘half Kenyan’ heritage and his hatred for the British Empire.
As foreign secretary, Johnson will be responsible for negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU. This will be difficult considering he has insulted the French and German people, used national stereotypes when describing Europeans and is accused of consistently lying about the EU.
Johnson has a habit of making apparently racist statements, once referring to the ‘watermelon smiles’ of the British Commonwealth’s black population and calling Hillary Clinton a ‘sadistic nurse’. This makes him a poor choice to lead trade negotiations with the US if Clinton wins the White House. Britain’s relationship with the US is one of Johnson’s favorite topics.
Since the Brexit referendum and the sharp rise in racist incidents, many UK commentators have worried about the ‘Trumpification’ of British politics. Brexit campaigner Michael Gove’s claim that people were ‘sick of experts’ was seen as channeling Trump’s attitude towards pollsters and economists. The Brexit debate was also framed as a revolt against an unaccountable elite in Brussels, just as Trump is taking aim at politicians in Washington.
The UK’s new prime minister Theresa May surprised everyone with her choice for the crucial job. May and Johnson were on different sides of the referendum are have never been political allies. May may be gambling that if negotiations don’t go well, Johnson’s reputation as a buffoon will be blamed rather than her leadership.