UK Politics

Senior MEP Manfred Weber calls Boris Johnson 'arrogant'

Boris Johnson with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in September in Ankara Image copyright AP
Image caption Boris Johnson with President Erdogan in September in Ankara

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been accused of being "provocative" and "arrogant" after telling Turkey he supports its bid to join the EU.

Senior German member of the European Parliament Manfred Weber said Mr Johnson's comments were "unbelievable" given his warnings about Turkish migrants during the UK's EU referendum.

"I cannot respect him any more, what he is doing in this regard," he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson told MPs UK-EU relations were "excellent".

Mr Weber - head of the centre-right EPP grouping in the European Parliament - was speaking to reporters in Strasbourg about Brexit talks when he turned to Mr Johnson's offer to help Turkey join the EU, an offer made during his September visit to Ankara.

Mr Weber said: "He himself did, in the Brexit campaign, leaflets where he showed Turkey, Syria and Iraq as possible members of the European Union, making people afraid of possible EU migration waves.

"He used it himself, and then, a few weeks afterwards, he is travelling to [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and he is offering support for becoming a member of the European Union - it is unbelievable, it is a provocation and it is arrogant what we hear from him.

"I cannot respect this any more, what he is doing in this regard."

Mr Weber said: "Please step back. It is a question of fairness, of respect. When you want to leave a club, you have no say any more in the long-term future of this club."

Brexit talks

Mr Johnson has also faced criticism from other EU member states for comments last week that have been interpreted by some as wanting the UK to stay in the single market while also being able to curb the free movement right of all EU citizens to live and work in the UK.

Asked about the state of Brexit talks, at Foreign Office questions on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said Theresa May had set out very clearly "what we hope to achieve" and that the plan was "eminently achievable".

He said: "More and more of our friends and partners around the EU are seeing the merits of what is being proposed. More and more are excited. And relations, I can tell you, relations are excellent and are getting warmer. Not just in the EU but around the world."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Manfred Weber is leader of the EPP group in the European Parliament

On Tuesday, Mr Weber also met the UK's Brexit Secretary David Davis, for an introductory meeting ahead of the formal negotiations set to begin when Theresa May triggers the two-year UK exit process in March.

Mr Davis described his meeting with Mr Weber and the European Parliament's lead negotiator on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt, as a "good start" and spoke of his hope of a Brexit deal that suited the EU, the UK and also met the referendum "requirements", which was taken as meaning curbs on immigration.

But Mr Weber was less enthusiastic, saying that free movement of people was not negotiable, adding: "Today, in my talk with David Davis, unfortunately I haven't really heard anything new. I haven't really heard how the British government want to tackle Brexit or what Brexit really means."

Europe 'under threat'

Mr Verhofstadt also tweeted a warning that the EU's values were being threatened from within by "cronies" of President Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President-elect Donald Trump.

"Let's not allow this happen. Let's fight back," he said.

It appeared to be a reference, in part, to UK Independence Party interim leader Nigel Farage, who has spoken admiringly about Mr Putin. Mr Farage is also close to Mr Trump and his entourage.

On Monday, Mr Trump controversially suggested that Mr Farage - a leading Brexiteer - should be appointed UK ambassador to the US. The UK government has dismissed the suggestion.

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