‘A liar with his back to the wall’ - European counterparts lash Boris Johnson

French and German politicians are dismayed by Boris Johnson’s selection as the UK’s foreign secretary

UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to appoint Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary has led to outcry in continental Europe.

The surprise decision has led the German foreign minister to label the former mayor of London “monstrous” and the French foreign minister to call him “a liar with his back to the wall.”

This naked hostility is undoubtedly fuelled by a widely held view that gaffe prone Johnson was instrumental in orchestrating the UK’s vote to leave the European Union in last month’s referendum and that he then turned his back on the consequences once the shock result came to pass.

France’s foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault was asked on French radio if he was surprised by Johnson’s appointment. “I don’t know if it surprised me,” he said. “It’s a sign of the British political crisis that has come out of the referendum vote.”

“He told a lot of lies to the British people and now it is him who has his back against the wall. He is up against it to defend his country and also so that the relationship with Europe is clear,” Ayrault went on to say.

Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, offered a similar withering critique of the UK’s new foreign secretary, labelling Johnson’s behaviour during the referendum campaign “ungeheuerlich”- meaning monstrous or outrageous.

“People are experiencing a rude awakening after irresponsible politicians first lured the country into Brexit and then, once the decision was made, decided to bolt from responsibility, and instead go off and play cricket,” Steinmeier said, referencing Johnson playing cricket at the stately home of Earl Spencer on the day after the Brexit result.

“To be honest, I find this outrageous. It’s not just bitter for Great Britain. It’s also bitter for the EU,” Steinmeier concluded.

Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European commission, said the “hatred and bigotry” unleashed by the Leave campaign “took me completely by surprise”

He also cited Johnson’s remarks that US President Barack Obama held a grudge against Britain because of his “half-Kenyan ancestry”.

“Would it not have been enough to say that you disagree with the American president’s point of view? Why discredit not just his motives, but even his persona, with borderline racist remarks?” Timmersmans wrote.

Johnson will not be in charge of negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU as Prime Minister May has named David Davis, a pro-Brexit former Conservative Party chairman, to a special ministerial role for that purpose.