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A clown, an opportunist, Europe's own Trump: German media takes a dim view of Boris Johnson

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Boris Johnson, a leadership candidate for Britain's Conservative Party. Photo: Reuters/Peter Nicholls

Peter Wittig, the German ambassador to London penned a lengthy opinion piece in Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper on Monday, saying that while Germany also bears responsibility for a smooth Brexit, reaching a free-trade agreement after a no-deal Brexit would be “enormously difficult” as “trust would be destroyed.”

While Wittig implored for sensible behaviour on both sides, the German media is puzzling over Boris Johnson, the top contender to become the next UK prime minister and lead his country out of the EU. Overall, political writers are not impressed.

Johnson’s bust-up with his girlfriend, his gung-ho promises that Britain will leave the bloc on 31st October come what may, and his character flaws are causing consternation and no little disgust amongst media commentators in Europe’s biggest economy.

"Will Europe soon have its own Donald Trump?" asked Bild, Germany’s leading tabloid.

“Like Donald Trump, Johnson cultivates a decidedly unconventional political style,” wrote Alexander von Schönburg for Bild. He goes on to say that the idea of Johnson becoming prime minister triggers “nervous twitching” in Brussels, Berlin, and Paris, noting that Johnson had already threatened to withhold the UK’s €44 billion exit payment to the EU as a negotiating tool.

“When EU Council President Donald Tusk said there was a ‘special place in hell’ for the Brexit leaders, he also had Johnson in mind,” Bild says. The paper catalogues Johnson’s history, including his alleged fabrication of quotes whilst working at the Times, cheating on his wives, his “legendary laziness,” and his comment that women in burkas looked like “mailboxes.”

The Reichstag building which houses the Bundestag lower house of parliament in Berlin, Germany. Photo: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung broadsheet asked on Monday: “What does Boris Want?“ The paper calls him “the hero of the English nationalists and a “talented charlatan who still does not have a true plan for Brexit.”

Boris’s core supporters love him because he cheers and defends Brexit with the greatest relish, the paper says, “because he is a clown and an opportunist.”

Der Spiegel, Germany’s influential weekly current affairs magazine, today wrote “Seriously? “Boris Johnson has just one rival to beat, then he is head of the British Tories and new prime minister. But for someone so favoured, things are going disastrously.”

Spiegel focuses on how Johnson has not only refused to discuss the reported fight between him and his girlfriend but also his extreme vagueness over how he would solve the huge Brexit issue of the Irish border — save to say that "many technical solutions" exist.

“It was classic Johnson … he is used to making eloquent announcements that often dissolve when it comes to details,” Spiegel sums up.