THE United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union does not mean it will be leaving Europe or “abandoning” its friends, the new foreign secretary has said in Brussels.
Making his debut on the international stage, Boris Johnson said the EU needed a “co-ordinated response” to terrorism in the light of the recent Nice attack.
He also said he wanted to “see restraint and moderation on all sides” in Turkey following the attempted coup.
BBC revealed that Mr Johnson is meeting fellow EU foreign ministers for talks.
Foreign ministers will discuss the Nice attack and the abortive coup in Turkey, but have stressed there will be no formal discussions about Britain’s EU exit.
Mr Johnson’s journey to the talks – which will also be attended by US secretary of state John Kerry – was delayed after his plane had to make an emergency landing.
It meant the newly-appointed cabinet member was late for an informal dinner with EU foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini on Sunday evening.
Arriving at the meeting, Mr Johnson said: “The message I’ll be taking to our friends in the Council is that we have to give effect to the will of the people and leave the European Union.
“But that in no sense means we are leaving Europe. We are not going to be in any way abandoning our leading role in European participation and co-operation of all kinds.”
For Boris Johnson the classicist, the omens for his first international meeting – at the heart of the EU in Brussels – were not auspicious.
His RAF plane had to make an emergency landing on his way there.
Heading to a working breakfast with his 27 fellow foreign ministers early this morning, the new foreign secretary didn’t duck the inevitability, as he sees it, of Britain leaving the European Union.
But he also took care to stress his central message – that Brexit is not the same as Britain leaving Europe.
For many of his EU counterparts, it does feel the same, however.
And it is awkward for the man who led the Leave campaign to victory that today’s gathering marked another symbolic first: the participation by an American secretary of state in an EU foreign ministers’ council.
John Kerry, in his remarks, has been treading a fine line between Washington’s enthusiastic support for European integration – demonstrated by his ground-breaking attendance – and the need felt by him and President Obama to talk up prospects for both Britain and the EU after their divorce.