U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has suggested that President Trump would handle Britain’s departure from the European Union better than the current government -- saying he’d “go in bloody hard.”
Johnson, who campaigned for Brexit in 2016, made the remarks at a closed-door gathering in London on Wednesday -- remarks that were leaked to BuzzFeed News.
According to the tape of the remarks, Johnson expressed his frustration with the Conservative government’s handling of the talks with Brussels, saying that fear of short-term disruption was spooking the government.
“Project Fear is really working on them. They’re terrified of this nonsense. It’s all mumbo jumbo,” he said.
Asked about Trump, Johnson said that he is “increasingly admiring” of the U.S. president and that he is more convinced that "there is method in his madness." He then asked his audience to imagine the billionaire handling the Brexit negotiations.
“Imagine Trump doing Brexit,” Johnson said. “He’d go in bloody hard… There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It’s a very, very good thought.”
Johnson’s remarks come amid increasing concerns from so-called “Brexiteers” in the Conservative Party that the 2016 referendum is being delayed and undermined by those in government and in the E.U. who wish the U.K. did not vote to leave the bloc and are trying to reverse the decision.
Activists and U.K. media voices have expressed fears of a “Hotel California” Brexit, referring to the Eagles song that includes the line “You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave.”
In his remarks, Johnson said that he was confident that there would be a Brexit, but expressed fear about what it would look like.
“The risk is it will not be the one we want and the risk is that we will end up in a sort of anteroom of the EU, with an orbit around the EU, in a customs union and to a large extent in the single market,” he said. So not really having full freedom on our trade policy, our tariffs schedules, and not having freedom with our regulatory framework, either.”
Prime Minister Theresa May, arriving at the G-7 summit in Canada on Friday, was asked by Sky News about the leaked remarks and reacted tersely:
"The foreign secretary has strong views on Brexit, but so do I. That's why I'm getting on with the job of delivering Brexit," she said. She did not answer directly a question about whether Johnson was "unsackable."
Johnson, who was born in New York, is known for his colorful language and has used it to defend Trump against adversaries in the U.K. In January he tore into London Mayor Sadiq Khan for telling Trump he was not welcome in London.
“We will not allow US-UK relations to be endangered by some puffed up pompous popinjay in City Hall,” he tweeted.
President Trump will visit London next month, where he will meet with May as part of a working visit to the country.