Flip-flopping Boris Johnson jumps US queue

British foreign secretary signals post-Brexit US trade deal amid U-turn on Trump

 British foreign secretary  Boris Johnson and US Senate foreign relations committee chairman Bob Corker in Washington, DC. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson and US Senate foreign relations committee chairman Bob Corker in Washington, DC. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

 

Remember when Barack Obama riled Brexiteers by warning the UK would be at the “back of the queue” in any trade deal with the United States if the country opted out of the European Union?

A lot of acrid water has flowed under the bridge since then, but now British voters are being presented with the converse scenario, namely that Britain is actually “first in line” for a trade deal with the US once its EU divorce comes through.

And who best to deliver news of this about-face than foreign secretary Boris Johnson, the master of flip-flop, a politician who has more colours than a bag of Skittles.

Having joked in December 2015 that he wouldn’t visit New York because of the “real risk of meeting Donald Trump” – and having described the US president-elect as “unfit” to hold office, “out of his mind” and “stupefying ignorant” – Johnson now praises his “very exciting agenda of change”.

The Conservative MP for Uxbridge is famed for this sort of political somersault.

He reportedly sent former prime minister David Cameron a series of texts on Brexit, see-sawing one way and then the other right up until coming out publicly on the Leave side.

He also penned an unpublished newspaper column, warning Brexit would cause an “economic shock” and lead to the break-up of the UK, just prior to publishing a different column savaging the EU and Britain’s membership of it.

His cover story was that the unpublished column was intended merely as a mental tool to clarify his own thoughts. This is post-truth politics, UK-style.

After meeting with senior Republican Party figures this week, Johnson indicated the US was likely to fast-track a deal with post-Brexit Britain, so keen is it to preserve the so-called “special relationship”.

Most of his US interlocutors remained tight-lipped after the meetings but Bob Corker, the chair of the US Senate foreign relations committee, told the BBC that it would be “our priority to make sure that we deal with [the UK] on a trade agreement”.

Politics is queer business; maybe Trump is right about needing “to drain the swamp”.

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