International reaction to Boris Johnson appointment

MEP Alyn Smith has today (Thursday) collated some of the international reaction to the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, and warned it makes for dispiriting reading.

Alyn said:

“In a globalised society, we have to look at the message this sends out to our colleagues abroad. Boris Johnson is a man more used to burning bridges than building them.

“Scotland voted to remain in the EU, but now we face being dragged out against our will while knowing that we’re being associated with the kind of Foreign Secretary who called people ‘piccaninnies’.

“The image of the Foreign Secretary of the UK is no sharp negotiator in a suit, but a man stuck halfway along a zip wire, sheepishly waggling a couple of flags. The world is watching, and it’s stifling a giggle.”

A brief overview of the international reaction is below:


Guy Verhofstadt has said of the appointment of Boris Johnson – "Clearly British humour has no boundaries..." -

Martin Schulz, the European parliament chief, said Theresa May’s new cabinet was based on solving internal splits in the Conservatives rather than promoting the national interest, continuing a “dangerously vicious cycle” that will hurt Britain and Europe.

Frans Timmermans, VP of Commission on Facebook about Boris Johnson: "Why did you find it necessary to bring the Nazis into this campaign?  Should politicians not be more aware of the potential impact of our words and actions? Our job is not a game."

Czech Republic

Pavel Telicka, the Czech Republic MEP, said the appointment showed Mrs May’s funny side. “People say PM May does not have a sense of humour. By appointing B. Johnson she proved the opposite,” he said. -


French PM in comments to Europe 1 radio, Mr Ayrault said: "I am not at all worried about Boris Johnson, but... during the [referendum] campaign he lied a lot to the British people and now it is he who has his back against the wall.”

"Did you see his tactics during the [Brexit] campaign? He lied a lot to the British," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in an interview on radio station Europe 1. "Now it's he who's up against it to defend his country." Ayrault added: "I need a partner who is clear and reliable." -


Angela Merkel declined to comment on May’s surprise decision to appoint Johnson when asked by reporters. “I believe it is our task to work closely with governments in allied countries. The world has enough problems for us to progress in our foreign policy cooperation with Great Britain as we have always done,” she said.

The hashtag #Außenminister (foreign minister) however captured the national mood. Ralf Stegner, deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party, the junior partner in Merkel’s coalition, said “Mrs May looks weaker after such a choice of personnel”. Johnson had not come across as an exemplary diplomat in the past, Stegner said. “Now he is negotiating Brexit. Enjoy the trip!” –

Ralf Stegner, deputy leader of the SPD party: "[Prime Minister Theresa] May seems to be weaker through making such an appointment." He said Mr Johnson had hardly demonstrated that he was an outstanding diplomat. "Now he is negotiating Brexit. Have a nice trip." (BBC News)

Der Spiegel columnist Jakob Augstein: "Haha! Boris Johnson as foreign minister. I can't stop laughing. The Brits are crazy." (BBC News)

Nikolaus Blome from Bild: "There's justice after all. As foreign minister, Boris Johnson, now has to lie in the bed he made himself." (BBC News)

ZDF Nicole Diekmann: "So, Boris Johnson, foreign minister. British humour" (BBC News)

Frank-Walter Steinmeier (before Johnson appointment): "irresponsible politicians who first lured the country into Brexit, out, refused to take responsibility and went to go and play cricket!" (BBC News) 


 Irish Times: “his track record when it comes to interacting with other cultures is patchy to say the least”           


Vittorio Zucconi, prominent author and journalist has compared Boris getting FS role to Matteo Salvini (leader of Lega Nord) becoming Sec Gen of the UN. 

King of Gaffes- “re di tutti i gaffeur” - Lettera 43 News

Marco Castlenuovo, journalist for Corriere Della Sera:

“There is no limit for the worst: @BorisJohnson will almost certainly be the next Minister of Foreign Affairs”


Newspaper Alfa is running a story on the reaction to Johnson and has said:

“World reaction to Johnson becoming Foreign Secretary: I hope this is a joke”


Times of Malta says “'Bumbling Boris' made foreign secretary: His gaffes strewn across the globe” 


AD News:

“The decision to place Johnson on this new post is remarkable. He was, after all, the man who was partly responsible for pulling a British exit from the EU and in the future will undoubtedly have to go back to Brussels to consult with colleagues who he turned his back on last month.”


Newspaper Expansión has said:

Boris Johnson has made “Dialectical barbarities to world leaders” 


Anders Åslund, Swedish economist & Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council:

“How can PM May appoint Boris J foreign secretary. The obvious message is that UK is not serious about foreign policy”

Carl Bildt, ex Swedish PM:

“I wish it was a joke, but I fear it isn't. Exit upon exit.”

Fredrick Federley MEP: "Trump, Brexit, Pokemon Go, Boris Johnson. Oh lord, what horrors will you bring us tomorrow?"

Outside of EU:


Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, also erupted in a bout of Borisology, with many observers focusing on the former London mayor’s hair rather than his foreign policy experience. “Just from looking at Boris Johnson you can tell that British hairdressing is not doing so well,” quipped one. Another, less diplomatic dispatch sent to a functionary of the British embassy (in Beijing) said simply: “Your new boss is a plonker.”


Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim - “What would I say to him? Well, may God help him and reform him and I hope that he won’t make any more mistakes and try to make it up with the Turks,”

The  official reaction was one of carefully restrained laughter. When State Department spokesman Mark Toner heard the news, he struggled to keep a straight face – a broad smile breaking out more than once – before saying the US “looked forward” to working with Johnson. -

Ian Bremmer, Political Scientist specialising in U.S. foreign policy, states in transition, and global political risk has a number of tweets. The best are:

“From the archives: UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson with some truly risible views on Africa.”

 “Maybe the Brits are just having us on. We probably deserve it.”