Johnson Feels Guilty For Comparing Ukraine War to Brexit

Published March 21st, 2022 - 11:05 GMT
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the Conservative Party Spring Conference at Blackpool Winter Gardens in Blackpool, northwest England, on March 19, 2022. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)
Highlights
Speech to Tory spring conference on Saturday sparked cross-party criticism

Boris Johnson has expressed regret after sparking a political uproar by comparing Ukraine's defiance of Russia's invasion to the UK's vote to quit the EU, 

The comments in a speech to the Tory spring conference on Saturday sparked cross-party criticism, including from a strong of prominent Conservative backbenchers.  

Addressing the event in Blackpool on Saturday the Prime Minister said it is the 'instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom', with the Brexit vote a 'famous recent example'.

More than 13,000 people, soldiers and civilians, are believed by the UN to have been killed since Putin's war of aggression began last month.

This morning a source told the Times the comparison 'sounded better written down than it did when spoken'.

Ministers have been forced to come out to bat for the PM since he made the remarks. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid today said Mr Johnson was not suggesting 'at all' a comparison between the Ukrainian fight against the Russian invasion and the Brexit 2016 vote.

The minister told Sky News: 'What I heard from the Prime Minister was the... basically the desire for self-determination in everyone, no matter what country they're in, no matter what their circumstance, is strong.

'I don't think in any way he was connecting the situations in Ukraine and the UK, and if we want to know what the Prime Minister thinks about Ukraine and responding, I mean, we can see for ourselves in terms of the support that he's provided, rock-solid support compared to any other world leader.'

He added: 'I think it's spurious to say that he was connecting somehow the UK and Ukraine in that way.

 

'I think most normal people listening to that wouldn't have drawn that conclusion.'

In his speech, Mr Johnson said: 'I know that it's the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time.

'I can give you a couple of famous recent examples.

'When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don't believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It's because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.'

Chancellor Rishi Sunak offered on a tepid defence of the PM today, telling Sky News yesterday: 'Clearly they are not directly analogous and I don't think the Prime Minister was saying that they were directly analogous either.'

Mr Sunak added: 'People will draw their own conclusions. People can make up their own minds.'

Former European Council president Donald Tusk, who fought Russian backed-Communism in Cold War Poland, said the Prime Minister's words 'offend Ukrainians, the British and common sense'.  

And senior backbench Tory Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the Defence Committee, said the comparison 'damages the standard of statecraft' being exhibited in the response to the invasion.

But fellow Tory MP Robert Halfon told BBC Breakfast: 'I don't think it is as big a deal as some people are making out.

'The way I see it is the Prime Minister was saying we're a vibrant democracy. We're such a vibrant democracy, we've had a referendum. Ukraine wants to be a vibrant democracy and the Russians are trying to stop that.' 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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