Opinion: Boris Johnson plus EU equals no love affair | Opinion | DW | 14.07.2016
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Opinion

Opinion: Boris Johnson plus EU equals no love affair

Boris Johnson is the epitome of Brexit. No one in the EU knows what Britain's newly appointed foreign secretary wants - or whether he will be able to meet the responsibilities of his position, DW's Bernd Riegert writes.

Brexit Boris, of all people, has become foreign minister? You can almost hear the groans from the European Council building in Brussels. Every four weeks, the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council, composed of EU foreign ministers, convenes for the bloc's most important ministerial-level meeting. Not only do participating ministers make decisions regarding EU foreign policy, but they deal with many important projects and issues that are discussed at the summits of bloc leaders. Boris Johnson - the man who will represent the United Kingdom at these meetings, for a while at least - is a political rogue, a con man who had officials in Brussels thinking he was a failure.

Just a few days ago, Johnson himself had said he was not the person to turn the Brexit result into policy. And yet, rather suddenly, he has become the United Kingdom's foreign minister. It is surely a tactical maneuver on the part of new Prime Minister Theresa May to placate the "Leave" hard-liners in her Conservative Party: She has given Johnson responsibilities so that she can keep him under control to some extent.

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DW's Bernd Riegert

Johnson - a talented campaigner, communicator and showman - will not initially be involved much in Brexit negotiations. But, as foreign secretary, he will be responsible for Britain's relations with the European Union once his country leaves the bloc and the EU has become a foreign entity. And, for as long as Britain remains a member, Johnson will have full voting rights on the Foreign Affairs Council. He can block decisions and throw a spanner into the works of the Brussels machine he so loathes.

Many long-serving Brussels correspondents and EU officials recall that in the early 1990s Johnson, then the correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, cobbled together half-truths. They contained a grain of truth, but Johnson himself would later boast that he could create a Euroskeptic mood just by churning out inflated tales of the European Union for Britain. Looking back through the newspaper archives, Johnson's narrative is recognizable: The European Union is evil, and Britain is a victim.

Boris Johnson used plain old nonsense to lead the "Leave" campaign to victory. It remains to be seen whether he can use that strategy to succeed as foreign secretary. Does Johnson take anything seriously? Does he view politics as a game or a show to feed his own need for publicity? Leading Britain's Foreign Office will certainly give him ample time in the stoplight. He can travel around the world, make jokes in palaces and pose for pictures with powerful people. Maybe the political jester is simply not interested in the heaps of documents and the everyday problems in the dull and grey conference halls of the European Union. This coming Monday, however, the novice minister will meet with his US counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry, who regularly takes part in EU Foreign Affairs Council meetings. Johnson will probably remind Kerry of a more youthful Donald Trump - and not only because they have similar hairdos. Like the Republican presidential candidate, Johnson has off-kilter political views, a big mouth and a strange relationship to facts, and is, alas, exceptionally successful.

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