In Depth

What the rest of the world thinks of Boris Johnson

Tory leadership favourite likened to Donald Trump but with more ‘political stardust’

Boris Johnson has long divided opinion across the UK - and now the rest of the world is getting in on the debate as he promises to lead Britain out of the European Union as prime minister.

With Johnson widely expected to beat rival Jeremy Hunt in the race to replace Theresa May, foreign observers are speculating about how the former foreign secretary might deal with the Brexit chaos. 

From Europe to Australia, here is what commentators are saying about the Downing Street hopeful.

“Boris Johnson as the head of the United Kingdom? No thanks!” says French daily Le Monde. An editorial in the newspaper says that his threat to keep the £39bn “divorce bill” payment owed to Europe would “taint” the international credibility of the UK, which claims to champion the rule of law.

“His entry to 10 Downing Sreet would be a calamity for his country and for Europe,” it concludes.

Germany’s Deutsche Welle agrees that the “wannabe British PM” has a “penchant for gaffes, extramarital affairs and fanning the flames of Euroskepticism”.

The public broadcaster suggests that Johnson’s decision to “throw his considerable weight and high profile behind Brexit” was something of a “career move”, but warns that “as Theresa May has learned this year, it is dangerous to dismiss Boris Johnson as a clown”.

EU leaders have been lining up to throw cold water on Johnson’s plans to reopen Brexit deal negotiations or leave without an agreement by 31 October.

“I don’t think the credibility of Boris Johnson is very high in the EU. He’s someone who says one thing and says the opposite the next day,” says Christian Lequesne, a professor of European politics at French university Sciences Po.

The New York Times has published an even more damning opinion piece by sociologist William Davies, who claims that a “fanatical sect has hijacked British politics”.

Johnson is “poised to become prime minister thanks to a small, unrepresentative population of Brexiteer voters bent on destruction”, warns Davies.

Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, accused by critics of leading an authoritarian regime, has said the selection of a PM through a vote of party members rather than a general election is “strange”.

But while Johnson’s enthusiastic comments about no-deal Brexit have put off many Europeans, it is the main appeal for his supporters, says Davies.

One such supporter includes US President Donald Trump, who has said: “I think Boris would do a very good job. I think he would be excellent.”

Many newspapers and broadcasters have drawn comparisons between the two men, including Russia’s Sputnik, which argues they have more in common than “their trademark hairdo”.

Both initially appear to be unlikely candidates for political leadership and both have been embroiled in personal cheating allegations. More importantly, both “have a thing for scrapping alliances and treaties”, says the news agency, referring to Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 1994 Nafta deal and the Iran nuclear deal, and Johnson’s long-running campaign for Britain to exit the EU.

However, the Australian Financial Review’s Hans van Leeuwen argues that Johnson’s “broader charm and charisma” marks him out from Trump.

“The Left may loathe him, but he can win over the uncommitted with his plain speech and political stardust,” van Leeuwen says. 

“Whereas May was the grim and unsmiling undertaker of Brexit, Boris will at least shamble towards the shitstorm with his umbrella folded up, and will urge his countrymen to do the same.”

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