Boris Johnson sparks outrage by comparing Ukraine’s resistance to the Brexit vote | International
Boris Johnson never misses an opportunity to put his foot in the mud, especially when his shoes are cleaner. His attitude, resolve and behavior on the international stage during the Ukraine crisis had, in recent weeks, achieved a rare sense of national unity among Britons, and a conviction that the whole scandal of banned parties in Downing Street during the confinement had been temporarily left behind. This Saturday, the Prime Minister caused the divisions that have marked the daily political life of the United Kingdom to emerge again in the last eight years, when comparing the heroic resistance of the Ukrainians against the Russian invasion with the Brexit vote in 2016 “I know that the instinct of the citizens of this country, like that of the people of Ukraine, is to always choose freedom,” Johnson said at a Conservative Party rally this Saturday in Blackpool. “I can give you a couple of examples. When the British voted overwhelmingly for Brexit, I don’t think it was even remotely out of hostility towards foreigners. It was because they wanted to be free to do things differently and to be able to control their own country.”
Among those in attendance in the auditorium was Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, who kept his composure in the face of a statement that managed to anger many members of the Conservative Party. “If we want to defeat Putin, we need international leadership and unity,” criticized Prime Minister Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative MP and chairman of the House of Commons Defense Committee. “Comparing the struggle of the Ukrainian people against the tyranny of Putin with the Brexit referendum damages the level of high state politics that we were beginning to show,” Ellwood denounced.
The paradox of Johnson’s attempt to link the two lies especially in the fact that the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has not stopped asking the EU to accept his country’s integration into the club, precisely to anchor in a way stronger its bond with the West. “I still remember how happy Putin was when the Brexiteers won the referendum,” said Donald Tusk, who was president of the European Council at the time, and who has expressed his discomfort at Johnson’s words.
“Boris Johnson is a national disgrace. His antics contrast with the courageous leadership shown by Zelensky. Comparing women and children fleeing bombs to the referendum is an insult to all Ukrainians,” said Ed Davey, the leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats.
Johnson wants to rescue the spirit of Brexit, and the supposed opportunities that this decision was going to offer the country, to face the final stretch towards the 2023 general elections. The energy crisis, the shortage in the supply chain and the blocking of the situation in Northern Ireland, where important parts of the protocol agreed with the EU remain unapplied, they have cast a cloak of disenchantment and apathy in the post-Brexit era.
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The best summary of the reactions unleashed by Johnson’s comparison has been made by Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister who coordinated the European Parliament’s response to Brexit: “The comparison of Johnson with the courageous struggle of Ukraine is simply crazy”, has said.
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