New British Foreign Minister and top Brexit backer Boris Johnson pledged Monday Britain will continue to play a “leading role” in Europe as he met his European Union peers in Brussels for the first time.
The normally ebullient Johnson was on his best behavior after infuriating his partners in the run-up to last month’s referendum by comparing the EU’s ambitions for closer integration to Adolf Hitler’s, AFP reported.
“We have to give effect to the will of the people and leave the European Union but… we are not going in any way to abandon our leading role in European participation,” Johnson told reporters.
He said he had a “very good conversation” with EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini late Sunday — although a dinner with her was called off after his plane had to make an emergency landing.
“I am very much looking forward to meeting my colleagues,” he added.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, attending his first EU foreign ministers meeting, said Johnson had told his peers Britain intended to remain a “vital component” of Europe.
Kerry visits London later Monday in an effort to reaffirm the two sides’ shared history and values which the Brexit vote had not changed, he said.