Fury at Boris Johnson's 'Basil Fawlty' ramblings comparing Ukraine's struggle to Brexit

The Prime Minister was condemned by former EU chiefs, senior Tories, and the French Ambassador to the UK after he compared Ukrainians battling off war crimes to Brits voting for Brexit

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Boris Johnson has sparked outrage from Tories and Europe after comparing Ukraine ’s fight against war crimes to Brits voting for Brexit.

The Prime Minister said the “instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom” in a bizarre speech to the Tory conference in Blackpool.

In a speech watched in person by Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, he added the Brexit vote was a “famous recent example”.

Mr Johnson was blasted by the French Ambassador, a former European Council President, a former No10 chief of staff, and opposition MPs who branded him “Basil Fawlty”.

Tory peer Lord Barwell, who was Theresa May ’s No10 chief of staff, pointed out Ukraine is seeking to join the EU.

He said voting in the 2016 referendum “isn’t in any way comparable with risking your life” in a war with Russian troops.

The Prime Minister said the “instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom” in a bizarre speech to the Tory conference in Blackpool



He tweeted sarcastically: “Apart from the bit where voting in a free and fair referendum isn’t in any way comparable with risking your life to defend your country against invasion + the awkward fact the Ukrainians are fighting for the freedom to join the EU, this comparison is bang on.”

Former European Council president Donald Tusk said: “I can still remember the enthusiasm of Putin and Trump after the referendum.

“Boris, your words offend Ukrainians, the British and common sense.”

Tory chairman of the Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood said Mr Johnson’s comparison “damages the standard of statecraft” being exhibited in the response to the invasion.

In a Twitter comment Mr Ellwood said: “If we are to ultimately defeat Putin we require international leadership and unity.

“Comparing the Ukrainian people’s fight against Putin’s tyranny to the British people voting for Brexit damages the standard of statecraft we were beginning to exhibit.”

Philippe Errera, the political director at the French foreign ministry, said: “If I were Ukrainian, I would feel insulted. If I were British, I would feel ashamed. As a French diplomat,I will not comment on twitter…”

France’s ambassador to the UK Catherine Colonna retweeted Mr Ellwood’s comment and responded to Mr Errera: “As the French Ambassador in the UK, I will not either.”

Former Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, another leading critic of Brexit in Brussels, said the comparison was “insane”.

In his speech, Mr Johnson said: “I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time.

“I can give you a couple of famous recent examples.

“When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson works on board his plane as he returns from Saudi Arabia last week


PA Wire/PA Images)

The other example given by the Prime Minister was the British people’s willingness to voluntarily get vaccinated against Covid-19 because they “wanted to get on with their lives” and “were fed up with being told what to do by people like me”.

Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey, said the Prime Minister “is a national embarrassment”, adding: “To compare a referendum to women and children fleeing Putin’s bombs is an insult to every Ukrainian.

“He is no Churchill. He is Basil Fawlty.”

SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said: “Boris Johnson’s comments comparing Ukraine’s life-threatening situation with Brexit was crass and distasteful, and shows just how dangerously obsessed the Tories are with Brexit.”

But loyal Tory MP Lucy Allan said: “Great speech from @BorisJohnson on excellent form.”

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