French foreign minister welcomes British counterpart in Paris

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrived in the French capital on Thursday to meet his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Johnson, a former mayor of London, was given the post in a new cabinet formed by British Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this month, following the resignation of government leader David Cameron. Cameron quit after a majority of UK voters opted in a referendum to leave the European Union.

“This first trip to France by the British foreign secretary will offer an opportunity to discuss the most important international issues of the day on which we work closely with the United Kingdom, as well as our bilateral relationship, particularly in the areas of defense, counter-terrorism and border control,” a French foreign ministry statement said.

After May named Johnson as Britain’s top diplomat, Ayrault eschewed the customary diplomatic niceties to ask how a man who had told lies to encourage Britons to vote to quit the EU could be a credible interlocutor.

Johnson subsequently said he had received “a charming letter” from Ayrault saying how much he looked forward to working together and to deepening Anglo-French cooperation.

When Johnson came to his first EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on 18 July, Ayrault sat expressionless as the Briton chatted animatedly with some counterparts nearby.

Ayrault said afterwards that Johnson had not apologized for having compared the EU’s goals to those of Hitler and Napoleon during Britain’s referendum campaign, although Johnson had “behaved with a certain modesty” at the meeting, he said.

Last Thursday, French President Fran├žois Hollande pressed May to explain an apparent lack of urgency in starting negotiations for Brexit when he met her in Paris. It was May’s second trip abroad as prime minister, after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel the day before.

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