In a provocative move, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, compared the Ukrainian struggle with Russia to the action of British people who voted for Brexit.
The British prime minister is currently striving to play an active role in the Ukraine crisis. Nevertheless, after comparing the struggle of the Ukrainian people against Russian aggressiveness with the vote of the British people for Brexit, criticism for Boris Johnson has become a major issue for politicians and the media.
He has been the subject of, and survived, many controversies in recent months. However, once again Boris Johnson came under attack by politicians and the media for his speech at the Conservative party spring conference in Blackpool on Saturday.
“I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom every time,” he told the conference, stating that the world is facing the moment of choosing between «freedom and oppression».
“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.”
The Wrath of Internal and External Criticism for Boris Johnson
The remarks led to fury among European diplomats and the media, starting a wave of criticism against Boris Johnson. It was not so long ago when Ukraine formally applied for EU membership. This remark was also the expression of a kind of criticism addressed at the EU and a message to stay away from it.
EU leaders expressed disgust at the remarks. This was while the European Union had invited President Joe Biden to join them last Thursday to discuss Ukraine; an event on the guest list of which Boris Johnson was not named despite being interested in attending.
Donald Tusk, former president of the European Council and an ex-prime minister of Poland, stated that Johnson’s words could potentially upset the Ukrainian people: “Boris Johnson likens the Ukrainians’ fight to British people voting for Brexit. I can still remember the enthusiasm of Putin and Trump after the referendum. Boris, your words offend Ukrainians, the British and common sense.”
The former prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, said: “Comparing Ukraine’s quest for freedom from Russian aggression to Brexit is about as vulgar as it gets. Winston Churchill, who understood freedom, must be turning in his grave. Boris Johnson, please stop these nonsensical comparisons.”
Inside Britain, the media, politicians and experts have once again ignited the fire of criticism towards Boris Johnson. “If we are to ultimately defeat Putin we require international leadership and unity,” said the Tory chair of the Commons Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood.
And Conservative peer Gavin Barwell, former chief of staff for Theresa May during the Brexit negotiations, said: “Apart from the bit where voting in a free and fair referendum isn’t in any way comparable with risking your life to defend your country against invasion, and the awkward fact the Ukrainians are fighting for the freedom to join the EU, this comparison is bang on.”
According to SNP leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, the remarks indicate that the current prime minister is not suitable for the post.
“Boris Johnson’s comments comparing Ukraine’s life-threatening situation with Brexit was crass and distasteful, and shows just how dangerously obsessed the Tories are with Brexit,” he said.
What is Boris Johnson seeking?
It seems that comparing the Ukrainian people’s struggle with Putin to the Brexit vote has been a provocative action in the face of many criticisms for leaving the EU and the comments that imply the process could have been handled better.
There have been difficulties such as the stagnation of trade with the EU and additional protocols and procedures for businesses. Moreover, the inadequacy of the supply chain has made life doubly arduous for British citizens. All this leads one to think that the words of the British prime minister were uttered without much thought.
In addition, Conservative support has dropped by about 21% since 2019. In contrast, the number of supporters for the Labour Party has increased by 10%. The statistics ring the alarm bells for the British prime minister, who is trying to use his election propaganda once again.
Speaking at the spring conference, Johnson once again boasted that Britain had provided the fastest vaccine in Europe. He also accused Labour leader Kir Starmer of being a remainer, wanting the UK to stay in the European Medicines Agency.
Criticising Boris Johnson has been going on for months since the Partygate scandal. These have been a threat to the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party together with the ups and downs of his prime ministership.
The release of images from last year’s Christmas party during the Covid-19 lockdown, as well as the release of a video showing staff members at the Prime Minister’s Office joking about the reports of a Christmas party, led to public outrage in Britain.
Criticism for Boris Johnson on the subject by politicians, media and the general public, has been very serious. Accordingly, the dangers of the upcoming local elections were assessed as being so serious for him that it was reported staff at No 10 were told to prepare for the probability of a general election in the autumn of next year.
Nevertheless, as the crisis in Ukraine intensified, the British prime minister used the situation as a cover for his recent weaknesses and scandals; he has sought to alter the negative views and increase the number of his supporters by playing an active role in this regard.
But his recent speech made it clear that his priority is not the Ukrainian people and the recent crisis. It is explicitly the interests of the British government and the prime minister himself. This was called a disgrace for Britain and angered politicians and social media users.
David Canzini, the prime minister’s new deputy chief of staff, told advisers that Johnson is “not out of the woods yet” over the Downing Street lockdown party scandal, according to The Times.
Canzini also said that Brexit is at the top of the British Government’s list of priorities, even higher than the crisis over the cost of living which has challenged the citizens of this country.
Boris Johnson became very popular during his tenure as mayor in the fight against crime, and his activities in the transport sector, the environment and more. However, the situation is different today.
Today, to bring the British people together again instead of merely relying on Brexit as the sole point of reference for his government, he ought to take steps to satisfy people in areas such as the crisis over the cost of living, especially rising energy prices due to the Ukraine crisis.
Particularly, the absence of Boris Johnson at the EU summit with President Biden as a guest has caused another blow to the politician’s reputation.
Therefore, it is safe to say that the latest words of the British prime minister in recent days can lead him to the end of his term. Now one must see how Boris Johnson will respond to the new pressures on him.