BRUSSELS – New British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who recently likened the European Union to Adolf Hitler’s vision for Europe, came to Brussels to meet for the first time with his EU colleagues, and said Monday he hopes to co-operate closely.
Johnson led a winning campaign to persuade British voters to leave the European Union, but said the referendum’s outcome last month “in no sense means we are leaving Europe.”
“We are not going to be in any way abandoning our leading role in European co-operation and participation of all kinds,” Johnson said before the start of an EU foreign ministers’ meeting. He said last week’s attack in Nice, France showed the need for European countries to co-ordinate their response to terrorism, and that he would support an EU call for “restraint and moderation” in Turkey following the failed military putsch there.
Despite Johnson’s anti-EU stance, Federica Mogherini, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, told reporters that “our common work on foreign and security policy continues and today we will welcome him as a new member of the family.”
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Johnson and Mogherini met privately in Brussels on Sunday evening and “had a good exchange on the main issues on the agenda today,” the EU official said.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who has said Johnson “lied a lot” to turn British public opinion against the EU, said Monday he would speak him with complete frankness. Ayrault also called for a quick start to formal talks on Britain’s exit from the 28-nation bloc.
Johnson, a former London mayor and Brussels-based journalist, was appointed foreign secretary by new Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday. The plane that was supposed to bring him on his first official trip to Brussels Sunday had to make an unscheduled landing because of a “technical issue,” the British Foreign Office said.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in May, during the referendum campaign, Johnson said the EU was trying to build a super-state, recreating the Roman Empire.
“Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods,” he was quoted as saying.