Boris Johnson compares Ukraine’s war with Britons voting for Brexit
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under strong criticism for comparing the struggle of the Ukrainian people against the Russian invasion with Britons voting for Brexit in 2016.
During a speech on Saturday to the Conservative party spring conference in Blackpool, Johnson underlined the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom”, with the Brexit vote a “famous recent example”.
In his speech, Johnson said: “I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time. I can give you a couple of famous recent examples.
“When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.”
The comparison was criticized by Tory peer Gavin Barwell, who pointed out Ukraine is seeking to join the European Union.
The other example given by the Prime Minister was the British people’s willingness to voluntarily get vaccinated against Covid-19 because they “wanted to get on with their lives” and “were fed up with being told what to do by people like me”.
Barwell, who served as Theresa May’s chief of staff in Number 10, said voting in the 2016 referendum “isn’t in any way comparable with risking your life” in a war.
On Twitter he said: “Apart from the bit where voting in a free and fair referendum isn’t in any way comparable with risking your life to defend your country against invasion + the awkward fact the Ukrainians are fighting for the freedom to join the EU, this comparison is bang on.”
Boris Johnson is a national embarrassment. His buffoonery contrasts with the courageous leadership of President Zelensky”.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said the Prime Minister “is a national embarrassment”, adding: “To compare a referendum to women and children fleeing (Vladimir) Putin’s bombs is an insult to every Ukrainian. He is no Churchill: he is Basil Fawlty.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “Boris Johnson’s comments comparing Ukraine’s life-threatening situation with Brexit was crass and distasteful, and shows just how dangerously obsessed the Tories are with Brexit.”