EU gives Boris Johnson his first international test as leader

Ex-French minister tells Boris Johnson ‘the EU is not for turning’ in a Thatcheresque warning over Brexit as Brussels’ Barnier says it wants an ‘orderly’ UK departure

  • Nathalie Loiseau, Paris’s former Europe minister, made the comment on Twitter
  • It echoed famous 1980 speech by Margaret Thatcher to Tory party conference
  • EU’s Michel Barnier also sent Mr Johnson a  message on Brexit 

A former top French minister channeled Margaret Thatcher today as she warning Boris Johnson ‘the EU is not for turning’ over Brexit. 

Nathalie Loiseau, Paris’s former Europe minister, highlighted the battle Mr Johnson faces to get Brexit sorted with Brussels.

The EU has so-far refused to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement won by Theresa May to remove the heated Northern Irish Border backstop. 

 ‘As much as we all want the relations between the UK and the EU to be as close and constructive as possible, Boris Johnson’s election doesn’t change a simple fact: we have a good deal and the EU will stand by it,’ wrote Ms Loiseau on Twitter.

‘The EU is not for turning.’ 

In what will be read as a pointed barb, the message from Ms Loiseau, who became an MEP in May, had echoes of Margaret Thatcher’s well-known 1980 Conservative Party speech.

In it the former prime minister addressed criticism of her economic reforms, saying: ‘To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the ‘U-turn’, I have only one thing to say: ‘You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.’ 

Nathalie Loiseau, Paris’s former Europe minister, highlighted the battle Mr Johnson faces to get Brexit sorted with Brussels

Mrs Thatcher made her famous speech at the 1980 Conservative Party Conference (pictured) a year after taking power

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier struck a slightly more conciliatory tone but still stayed away from suggesting major changes to the current deal.

He tweeted: ‘We look forward to working constructively with PM Johnson when he takes office, to facilitate the ratification of the withdrawal agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit.

‘We are ready also to rework the agreed declaration on a new partnership.’

French President Emmanuel Macron will speak to Britain’s incoming Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the coming days, said an official from Macron’s Elysee presidential office.

Emmanuel Macron and future head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen both congratulated Boris Johnson on becoming Britain’s next prime minister

Mr Macron said he hoped to work ‘as soon as possible’ with Johnson, not just on Brexit but also other international matters such as tensions with Iran

The new head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, congratulated incoming British prime minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday, but warned they faced ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ times ahead.

‘Congratulations to Boris Johnson for being nominated as prime minister,’ she said at a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. ‘I am looking forward to having a good working relationship with him.

‘There are many different and difficult issues to tackle together. We have challenging times ahead of us.

‘I think it is very important to build up a strong and good working relationship because we have the duty to deliver something that is good for people in Europe and in the United Kingdom,’ she added in English.

Von der Leyen, a former German defence minister, is set to take office the day after the current deadline for Brexit of October 31, with Jean-Claude Juncker nominally in control of the EU executive until then.

Macron, who has criticised Johnson in the past, also congratulated the incoming British PM.

‘I congratulate Boris Johnson and I will call him when he is officially prime minister,’ Macron said.

‘I want very much to work with him as quickly as possible and not just on European subjects and the continuation of negotiations linked to Brexit, but also on international issues on which we coordinate closely with Britain and Germany… like the situation in Iran,’ he added.

In an interview in March 2017 after Britain’s European referendum the year before, Macron said Johnson ‘enjoys giving flamboyant speeches but has no strategic vision’ and he held him responsible for the ‘crime’ of Brexit.

The French leader also paid tribute to outgoing British leader Theresa May on Tuesday in a message that was perhaps also destined for Johnson’s ears.

He said May had she carried out her duties with ‘a lot of courage and dignity’.

‘She never blocked the functioning of the European Union,’ he added.

In his victory speech today Mr Johnson pledged to get Brexit done

In his victory speech today Mr Johnson pledged to get Brexit done, saying: ‘I know that some wag has already pointed out that deliver, unite and defeat was not the perfect acronym for an election campaign, since unfortunately it spells dud – but they forgot the final ”e” my friends, ”e” for energise.

‘And I say to all the doubters, dude, we are going to energise the country.

‘We are going to get Brexit done on October 31.

‘We are going to take advantage of all the opportunities that it will bring in a new spirit of can-do.

‘And we are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve.’

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