Ministers forced to insist Boris Johnson isn’t a ‘clown’ after apparent shade from Emmanuel Macron

Ministers are falling over themselves to reject an alleged claim that French president Emmanuel Macron called Boris Johnson a “clown”.

According to the Times and the Telegraph, satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné reported that Macron called the prime minister a “clown” and a “knucklehead” and said he had “the attitude of a vulgarian” after the two clashed on ways to deal with small boats of people entering the UK from France.

Macron reportedly said: “It is sad to see a major country with which we could do huge numbers of things being led by a clown.”

Responding to the comments, Johnson’s team rejected them. On ITV’s Peston show, work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said the comments were “news to me”.

“I’m surprised to hear that. I’m conscious that we have a shared mission in trying to make sure that the people smuggling gangs are really brought to justice,” she said.

When it was put to her that the development was “troubling”, Coffey added: “As I say, I’m surprised to hear that and disappointed, openly. I’m sure that we can continue to try and work together to tackle this. But the prime minister wrote formerly to the president last week and… I hope that we’ll get a formal response back.”

Meanwhile, speaking to Sky News, business minister George Freeman said the comments were “unhelpful”. He said: “I think we are into pantomime season, aren’t we? And there is a French election coming.

“It is a pretty unhelpful word. Of course, the Prime Minister isn’t a clown, he is the elected Prime Minister of this country with a very big mandate, leading this country through the pandemic.

Speaking about how the government is working with France to tackle issues regarding border controls and people smuggling, he added:

“The Home Secretary is working closely with French counterparts on it and the Prime Minister and the UK Government are looking for a sensible conversation with France about it.

“So, I’m confident, actually, that Anglo-French relations are rather better than that quote suggests.”


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