Johnson at EU talks: Britain will continue to lead in Europe

Boris Johnson, Britain's new foreign secretary with a reputation for undiplomatic language, said his country would not abandon its leading role in European cooperation as he prepared to meet his EU counterparts in Brussels on Monday.

Johnson, a lead campaigner for Britain to leave the European Union in last month's referendum, was one the most controversial appointments to the new government of Prime Minister Theresa May, formed in the wake of the Brexit vote.

After using sharp language towards France, the United States, Turkey and Russia in the past, and comparing the EU to Adolf Hitler in May, Johnson showed restraint in media comments ahead of Monday's talks.

"The message I'll be taking to our friends ... is that we have to give effect to the will of the people and leave the EU, but that in no sense means that we are leaving Europe," Johnson said.

He had told EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini the same thing when the two met late Sunday, Britain's top diplomat added.

Several ministers also struck a conciliatory tone.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he had telephoned with Johnson on Saturday, describing their exchange as "frank, but ... useful" and stressing the importance of Franco-British relations.

Last week, Ayrault had accused Johnson of having "lied" to British voters in the referendum campaign.

Johnson's arrival in Brussels on Sunday was not without incident, with a technical fault on his plane causing an emergency landing at London's Luton airport, where the minister and his entourage took a replacement flight, an airport spokesman told the Press Association news agency.

Last update: Mon, 18/07/2016 - 10:52
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