UK's Boris Johnson criticised for comparing Ukrainian resistance to Brexit

British prime minister’s comments condemned as ‘facile, flawed and morally unworthy’

Boris Johnson speaks at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool, where he made the remarks about Ukraine. Reuters
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was attacked by political opponents past and present after comparing the Ukrainian army’s battle to fend off Russia to Brexit.

Brexit refers to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU after voting to do so in a referendum in June 2016.

“It’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom every time,” Mr Johnson said in a speech to Conservative Party members in Blackpool on Saturday.

“When the people of this country voted for Brexit in such large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It’s because they wanted to be free.”

Reaction was swift. Douglas Alexander, a former minister from the opposition Labour Party, said the comments were “facile, flawed and morally unworthy”.

Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister, said they were “insane”.

Donald Tusk, the former European Council president and now Poland’s opposition leader, addressed Mr Johnson directly, saying “your words offend Ukrainians, the British and common sense”.

Mr Johnson was the figurehead of the 2016 campaign that won the referendum on leaving the EU and has been trying to position himself as a leading figure in the efforts to support Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Mr Zelenskyy has been asking EU leaders to grant Ukraine fast-track membership to help him fend off the Russian invasion.

Updated: March 20, 2022, 2:37 PM