In the unlikely event that any EU leader might possibly have harboured any generous illusions about the character of the man on the eve of his investiture as leader of the Conservative Party and P.M. of the UK, Boris Johnson delivered a timely reminder of his lazy lack of preparation, his cheap populism and incontinent mendacity.
Waving a vacuum packed, Isle of Man kipper at his adoring audience, yet again he inveighed against what he mendaciously imagined to be EU regulations. Never mind that the Isle of Man is outside the EU and any regulation is the UK’s own, this is a continuation of cynically deceitful behaviour that with Johnson dates back a quarter of a century, during which he has spewed lies about EU rules on bananas, barmaids, condoms, cucumbers … there is an endless list. Waving a red herring, Johnson is shameless object of self satire.
Across Europe there is widespread bemusement that UK politics has been reduced to this state. Where for better or worse, the UK had a dominant position in the direction of Europe, in the construction of the Single Market, in driving enlargement and directing international policy it has squandered all and is seen as a sick joke, serving, as Donald Tusk remarked as an effective vaccine against Europhobic populism.
Official reaction is reserved and diplomatic “We look forward to hearing what the new prime minister, Boris Johnson wants, what are the choices of the UK,” said Michel Barnier, but when asked what this might be, he replied with scarcely a trace of irony “No. We are ready to listen and to work with him in a constructive way.“
Others have been more blunt: “Boris Johnson will find the European parliament an open and constructive partner. I look forward to alleviating Mr Johnson’s concerns regarding the imminent accession of Turkey to the EU, following the claims of the leave campaign, whilst explaining the EU has no rules on the packaging of kippers in the UK.” – Guy Verhofstadt.
Never in modern times has a UK leader been so distrusted from the outset in Europe: his record of endless lies and misrepresentations are well known in the EU as are his legacy of gaffes and feckless incompetency when he served as Foreign Minister. Moreover his doltish character is well known to the EU public, his position is seen as emblematic of a broken Britain and no government that might react naïvely to this frivolous habitual liar can expect clemency from its electorate.
Forewarned is forearmed; this leader will have no honeymoon in which to establish credentials. The instinct will be to tie him down to explicit and exacting detail to leave him no quarter for misrepresentation or dissembling.