When Boris Johnson made Britain an international laughing stock on its own turf.
On 9 July 2018, the UK hosted the fifth Western Balkans Summit – an annual summit within the Berlin Process initiative for European integration of Western Balkans states. By hosting the event in London, Theresa May’s government meant to “demonstrate our continued interest and involvement in the stability of the region beyond our exit from the EU.”
At the event, the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was supposed to unveil £10 million in aid funding to help young people in the Western Balkans improve their digital skills. The annual Western Balkans Summit is a major event for Balkan states and their neighbours with large delegations showing up.
But that appeared to be a committment too many for Boris Johnson who simply decided not to show up at all as he was too busy in a photoshoot with his PR team instead.
This is what the Evening Standard wrote at the time: “The Foreign Secretary failed to attend the Western Balkans summit on time on Monday, and missed a Cobra meeting about the Amesbury Novichok poisoning, according to reports. The hashtag #WheresBoris was trending on Twitter as the media tried to track down Brexiteer Mr Johnson.”
The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg also tweeted about the no-show:
The Economist’s correspondent Tim Judah, who was himself attending the event, tweeted about Alan Duncan, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, having to step up and replace Johnson:
In July 2019, Channel 4 News’ Matt Frei asked Priti Patel whether it was acting in Britain’s best interest for Boris Johnson not to show up at the Western Balkans Summit, and whether the Brits were made an international laughing stock.
Matt Frei — Was that in our country’s best interest? He didn’t show up. He was too busy having a photo taken while he was writing his resignation letter. That’s just not the kind of way a diplomat behaves, is it?... He could have sent a message to say he wasn’t coming. It was just a no-show. I mean, it’s just unacceptable, isn’t it? We were made a laughing stock on our own turf.
Priti Patel — I cannot recall the circumstances around why ... I don’t think we were made a laughing stock at all.
Matt Frei — A number of European Foreign Ministers think that (Boris Johnson) is a bit of a joke.
Priti Patel — That’s not something I’ve heard ... Why don’t they come out and publicly say that themselves?
Hold that thought for a moment...
After the event, the Economist explained that “the foreign ministers hung around waiting for Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary — and their host — to show up. They were asked to be patient. He was, apparently, attending an emergency government security meeting in the wake of the death of a woman from a chemical-warfare agent called Novichok. In fact, he was resigning, arguing that the latest Brexit plan would leave Britain as “a colony” of the EU. When the ministers were told the truth, some burst out laughing.”
And this is what the German foreign minister Michael Roth tweeted then:
The Guardian Diplomatic Editor, Patrick Wintour, tweeted:
If you didn’t know why people don’t trust Boris Johnson yet...
This is the real Boris Johnson.
The one where Boris’ ego and Boris’ career come first... committments and country come last.🔷
Check their Voting Record:
🗳️ Theresa May
🗳️ Alan Duncan
🗳️ Priti Patel
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