Johnson warns of 'Brexit meltdown'

LONDON • British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been caught on tape predicting a "meltdown" in Brexit talks and musing admiringly on how US President Donald Trump might handle them.

The comments were secretly recorded at a dinner on Wednesday and released the next day by the news website Buzzfeed, just hours after ministers found a compromise on a backstop Brexit plan for the Irish border.

Mr Johnson said Prime Minister Theresa May was beginning to take a harder line but that there would be a need for level-headedness as talks became more difficult in the months ahead. "I think Theresa is going to go into a phase where we are much more combative with Brussels," Mr Johnson was recorded as saying.

"You've got to face the fact there may now be a meltdown OK? I don't want anybody to panic during the meltdown. No panic. Pro bono publico, no bloody panic. It's going to be all right in the end."

Mr Johnson also said Mr Trump, who is locked in a battle over metal tariffs with European allies including Britain, would take a stronger approach if he were in charge of the negotiations.

"Imagine Trump doing Brexit," he was recorded as saying. "He'd go in bloody hard... There'd be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he'd gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It's a very, very good thought."

Mr Johnson, a leading Brexiter, also talked about divisions within the British government, saying that Brexit "will happen, and I think it will be irreversible, but... the risk is that it will not be the one we want".

A spokesman for Mrs May said yesterday that the Prime Minister has confidence in Mr Johnson. "The PM believes that her Cabinet and her government are working hard to deliver on the will of the people and working hard to take back control of our money, laws and our borders," she said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2018, with the headline 'Johnson warns of 'Brexit meltdown''. Print Edition | Subscribe