PARIS (Reuters) - British foreign minister Boris Johnson will meet his French counterpart in Paris on Thursday two weeks after Jean-Marc Ayrault called him a liar over his role in Britain’s vote last month 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 defence, counter-terrorism and border control,” a French foreign ministry statement said.
Johnson’s portfolio does not include Britain’s future negotiations on terms for leaving the EU, a task for which Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed a special minister, David Davis.
May replaced David Cameron on July 13 after he resigned over his failed campaign to secure a majority vote for Britain staying in the EU.
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 July 18, Ayrault sat stony-faced in his seat as the Briton chatted animatedly with some counterparts nearby.
Ayrault said afterwards that Johnson had not apologised 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.
News of Johnson’s Paris visit came on the day Michel Barnier, a former European Union commissioner and centre-right French foreign and agriculture minister, was named as the EU’s main representative in talks with Britain about its exit from the bloc, a move that drew a cool British response.
Reporting by Andrew Callus; editing by Mark Heinrich
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