The White House had nothing to say Sunday morning after the former British prime minister Boris Johnson was caught making a rude and dismissive comment about the US during discussions
The former Prime Minister spoke to his former Lord Chancellor Sir Robert Buckland when he made the remark in response to the suggestion that Britain’s new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunaktried to resolve problems with Northern Ireland protocol to smooth relations with the White House.
According to a witness, Johnson uttered the phrase “f*** the Americans” in response to that idea.
“Robert and Boris discussed the protocol and Robert said: “It’s important you support it Boris, it’s a good result and with the US state visit and the need to get a trade deal with them it will help us stay with Americans.’ Boris said “damn the Americans!” the witness said to the exchange.
The independent contacted the White House for comment Sunday morning but did not immediately receive a response regarding the remark itself or the idea that US-UK relations needed to be smoothed over.
The special relationship between the two powers showed signs of strain during the tenure of Mr Sunak’s short-lived predecessor, Liz Truss, who stepped down after just 44 days in the prime minister’s chair. Truss’ plan to cut taxes was sharply criticized as a “mistake” in a rare blunt assessment of UK politics by the president Joe Biden last year; her chief financial officer would go on to be fired and the plan was largely rolled back.
Mr Biden has not embarked on a state visit to the UK since taking office in 2021; However, plans for that to change are reportedly in the works as some news reports have indicated that the Irish-American president may make a trip to the UK and Ireland to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement later this year.
The president has made no secret of his love of his Irish ancestry over the years, even famously turning down a BBC reporter (as a joke) in 2020 when asked for comment, instead replying: “BBC? I’m Irish! “
Reporting of Johnson’s comments has already caused widespread dismay within the conservative party, even without a response from the White House, State Department or US lawmakers. A senior Tory figure, a former minister, said The independent: “After you say screw business and screw the Americans, you might as well stop being conservative and just screw yourself.”
“The Americans will obviously be offended by it. This will put his reputation in the US in freefall in the same way as in the UK,” the source added.
Some have speculated that Johnson has hopes of embarking on a speaking tour to conservative audiences in the US, a prospect that would clearly be jeopardized by comments like this.
A former Tory foreign secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, said The independent that he hopes both sides ignore the former prime minister’s outburst.
“Since Johnson was the significant cause of the problem by signing the (Northern Ireland) protocol, I think he is the last person who should be trying to damage what appear to be quite impressive efforts to get an alternative. It is unfortunate that he appears to be behaving negative about Rishi Sunak’s efforts,” he said.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill did not immediately offer reactions to the former prime minister’s comments on Sunday. A number of prominent members of Congress are of Irish descent and have been active in supporting the Good Friday Agreement. As recently as 2021, a resolution supporting the agreement and the continued peace process was passed by unanimous consent in the bitterly divided US Senate.
Johnson resigned as wave after wave of resignations rocked his cabinet last year; the former prime minister was engulfed in a number of scandals in his final days, including the appointment of Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip despite his knowledge that Mr Pincher was facing allegations of sexual abuse.
Some reports in December indicated that Mr Biden’s plans to visit Britain could be postponed if issues surrounding the border with Ireland were not resolved in the coming days; Britain’s decision to leave the EU has left lawmakers in parliament scrambling to decide how freight transport between Ireland and Northern Ireland should continue now that the two countries follow different regulatory standards and with fears of upsetting the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to the region after 30 years by The Troubles. The original trade deal, called the Northern Ireland Protocol, is now up for debate as British lawmakers seek to streamline the flow of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland.
In September, the White House warned that any attempt to undo the Northern Ireland Protocol altogether could hamper US-UK efforts to reach a trade deal.
“There is no formal link in the US-UK trade talks and the Northern Ireland Protocol, as we’ve said, but efforts to undo the Northern Ireland Protocol would not create an enabling environment, and that’s basically where we are in the dialogue,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean -Pierre then.