The choice of Boris Johnson as Britain’s new foreign secretary is a ‘somewhat surprising’ one, Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders told BNR radio on Thursday.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the new prime minister Theresa May wants to do justice to the result of the Brexit referendum by appointing a largely pro-Brexit team, Koenders said.
‘I have never spoken to him [Johnson] so to be fair, we will have to wait and see,’ Koenders said. ‘He is a flamboyant man who has said a lot of things about foreign leaders, so I think we could at least have interesting meetings with him as British foreign secretary.’
Johnson is famous for his gaffes and undiplomatic quotes and the appointment has caused both mirth and astonishment in diplomatic circles.
Koenders also repeated the Dutch line that is important to get moving on the negotiations for British withdrawal from the EU.
‘Britain must give clarity to make sure there is not a long period of uncertainty, he said. ‘It is important that she [May] begins by invoking Article 50 so we can get going.’
In 2014, while mayor of London, Johnson described Amsterdam as ‘sleazy and sordid’ and said the Dutch liberal approach to soft drugs was ‘out of date’.
The comments led Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan to say he would invite Johnson for a visit.
‘I’d like to show him how thousands of fellow Brits behave,’ Van der Laan is quoted as telling a council meeting. ‘They don’t wear a coat as they slalom through the red light district… they sing ‘You’ll never walk alone’. They are dressed as rabbits or priests and sometimes they are not dressed at all. I’d love to invite him to witness it.’
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