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The world reacts to Boris Johnson’s election as UK prime minister

Annabelle Timsit
Britain's next Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is the new prime minister of the United Kingdom, the man responsible for steering the country towards its scheduled exit from the European Union on Oct. 31. Not everyone is thrilled.

Shortly before the winner of the Conservative party leadership election was announced, UK education minister Anne Milton resigned, saying she had “grave concerns” over Johnson’s willingness to consider leaving the EU without a deal. Yesterday, foreign office minister Alan Duncan also resigned, calling Brexit a “dark cloud.”

Rory Stewart, secretary of state for international development and unsuccessful candidate for prime minister, announced he would not serve in a Johnson cabinet—neither will finance minister Philip Hammond. Scotland’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, has “profound concerns about the prospect of his premiership.”

While the British political scene is rocked by a wave of preemptive resignations and outcry over the former foreign secretary’s election, reactions from world leaders have ranged from slightly positive to neutral to benign, starting with Donald Trump. The US president has long supported Johnson, and tweeted out his congratulations mere minutes after the announcement:

He later followed up with more praise for Johnson—”Britain’s Trump”—calling him “tough” and “smart.”

Daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump quickly followed—though her first, and later deleted, attempt congratulated Johnson for becoming prime minister of the “United Kingston”:

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, also sent his congratulations. That’s despite the fact that, as member of parliament, Johnson won The Spectator’s 2016 “President Erdogan Offensive Poetry Competition,” organized in response to the Turkish president’s attempts to prosecute a German comedian for making offensive jokes about him in Germany. A goat may have been involved in Johnson’s winning entry, though it is thankfully absent from Erdogan’s tweet:

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said he looked forward to “working closely” with the new PM:

Other overseas reactions were more tempered. Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit spokesman for the European Parliament, said the Brexit Steering Group would meet to discuss the impact of Johnson’s election:

Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Brexit negotiator, struck a neutral tone:

French president Emmanuel Macron has yet to offer Johnson his congratulations, though he did apparently praise outgoing UK prime minister Theresa May in front of a group of reporters in France instead:

And Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, offered his congratulations to Johnson in the context of deteriorating UK-Iran relations over tensions in the Strait of Hormuz. His message to the incoming prime minister was clear: “These are our waters and we will protect them.”

 

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