London: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sparked fury for comparing the Ukrainians’ battle against Russia’s invasion to people in Britain voting for Brexit.
Addressing Conservative party’s spring conference in Blackpool on Saturday, 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.”
He also cited as an example British people choosing to get vaccinated against coronavirus because they “wanted to get on with their lives” and “were fed up with being told what to do by people like me”.
The comparison has drawn sharp criticisms from politicians both in the UK and Europe. Donald Tusk, the former president of the European Council, tweeted, “Boris, your words offend Ukrainians, the British and common sense.”
BBC quoted Conservative peer Lord Barwell, who served as Theresa May’s chief of staff in No 10, as saying voting in a referendum was not “in any way comparable with risking your life” in a war. Guy Verhofstadt, the former prime minister of Belgium who was the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, said the comparison was “insane”.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Edcalled the prime minister a “national embarrassment”, adding: “To compare a referendum to women and children fleeing Putin’s bombs is an insult to every Ukrainian. He is no Churchill: he is Basil Fawlty.”