‘A giant liar with a mop of hair’: What the French think of Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson was set to be named as the new British Prime Minister on Tuesday. He faces an awkward relationship with the French and it's not just because he reportedly called his neighbours "turds" over Brexit. Johnson has a history of French bashing and the French have shown they are not too keen on the "giant with a mop of hair" either.

'A giant liar with a mop of hair': What the French think of Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson makes a toast at the British embassy in Paris in 2017. Photo: AFP

Unless something completely unexpected happens Boris Johnson will be announced as the next Prime Minister of Great Britain on Tuesday.

BoJo has long been the firm favourite to win the Conservative Party leadership race ahead of Jeremy Hunt, the result of which will be announced on Tuesday morning.

The news is unlikely to be greeted warmly on this side of the English Channel given that Johnson has practically made a career out of bashing the EU and in particular the French.

The recent report that he reportedly referred to the French as “turds” due to Paris' stance on Brexit, is hardly a surprise.

What is perhaps is more eyebrow raising is that the BBC agreed to cut it out of a documentary on the request of the Foreign Office because it would be “politically awkward” for the then Foreign Secretary.

Johnson's relationship with the French has always been awkward so it's unlikely the “turds” remark would have made matters any worse. 

His French bashing dates back mainly to his time as Mayor of London.

Speaking at the 2012 Tory party conference, he said that France’s Socialist president François Hollande had brought “tyranny and terror to France”.

As London mayor Johnson also annoyed France by promising to welcome the French people fleeing rising taxes with open arms, in a similar dig to former PM David Cameron's famous “red carpet” jibe.

In a speech in India in 2012 Johnson said: “I see the sans-culottes appear to have captured the government in Paris,” referring to the French revolutionaries.

“I have no hesitation in saying here, 'Venez à Londres, mes amis!' (Come to London, my friends),” he told a meeting of business leaders in the capital New Delhi.

“Come to the business capital of the world,” Johnson added.

Indeed trips to New Delhi seem to bring out the French-basher in Johnson.


On a trip in 2017 he evoked a troubled chapter of France's history as he warned France against dishing out any World War II-style “punishment beatings” because Britain decided to leave the EU.

“I think that if Monsieur Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who chooses to escape, rather in manner of some sort of World War II movie, than I don't think that is the way forward,” he told delegates at a political conference. He was widely criticised for the remark.

Johnson's inappropriate comments, taunts and willingness to blame the French for Britain's post-referendum Brexit mess has understandably not endeared him to many on this side of the English Channel.

Johnson's appointment as Foreign Secretary in 2016 by PM Theresa May was met with incredulity in France.

The then French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called him a “liar”, a term regularly used by President Emmanuel Macron to refer to those who led the Brexit campaign.

“Did you see his tactics during the [Brexit] campaign? He lied a lot to the British,” Ayrault said in an interview on radio station Europe 1. “Now it's he who's up against it to defend his country.”

Ayrault added: “I need a partner who is clear and reliable”. Macron is likely thinking exactly the same thing right now as he watches Johnson dominate the Tory leadership race in the UK.

The French media were also hardly complimentary towards Johnson after his appointment as Foreign Secretary.

Le Figaro described him as a “pure product of the British conservative aristocracy, developed and trained to govern”, saying that he appears to be “guided by opportunism”.

France Inter referred to the former journalist who was sacked by The Times as “the giant with the mop of hair”, adding that he was “known for his blunders” and has always “preferred to sacrifice diplomacy for the sake of a good turn of phrase”, noting his comparison between the EU and the Nazi party during the referendum campaign.

In 2016 Johnson was booed at a Bastille Day party at the French embassy in London during his first engagement as Foreign Secretary.

“He shamelessly talks absolute rubbish,” said one French lady at the party, who did not want to give her name, but who had lived in the British capital for 30 years.

Johnson himself has close ties to France; his grandmother was half-French, he speaks the language well and once called London “the fourth biggest French city in the world”.




Member comments

  1. Johnson aims to be the Trump of the UK, distracting the populace from the reality of robbing the poor to pay the rich. As for ‘turds’ – it takes one to know one.

  2. We are so ashamed of this kind of behaviour from our government.Makes me embarrassed to be British.

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‘We will be ready’ vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

Transport bosses have raised fears of long queues in British ports when the EU's new EES system comes into effect next year, but French border officials insist they will be ready to implement the new extra checks.

'We will be ready' vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

The EU’s new EES system comes into effect in 2023 and many people – including the boss of the Port of Dover and the former UK ambassador to France – have raised concerns that the extra checks will lead to travel chaos on the UK-France border, and see a repeat of the long queues experienced last summer.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister told The Local that he feared “tailbacks out of the port and throughout Kent” because the new system could take up to 10 minutes to process a car with four passengers, as opposed to 90 seconds currently.

EXPLAINED What the EES system means for travel to France in 2023

But French border control have insisted that they will be ready, replying to questions from the European Commission with “Oui, La France sera prête” (yes, France will be ready).

French officials said they had already undertaken extension preparation and would begin test runs of the new system in French border posts at the end of this year.

document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

However, despite the preparation, the French admit that long waits at the border remain a worry, adding: “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers. The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continuing with each border post manager to make progress on this point.”

The EES system is due to come into effect in May 2023 and will be applied at all EU external borders – find full details on how it works HERE.

However there has been particular concern about the France-UK border due to three things; the high volume of traffic (in total over 60 million passengers cross the border each year); the fact that many travel by car on ferries and the Eurotunnel (while the EES system seems more designed with foot passengers in mind); and the Le Touquet agreement which means that French border control agents work in the British ports of Dover and Folkestone and at London St Pancras station.

EES is essentially a more thorough passport checking process with passengers required to provide biometric information including fingerprints and facial scans – border checks will therefore take longer per passenger, and this could have a big effect at busy crossing points like Dover.

The UK’s former ambassador to France, Lord Ricketts, told The Local: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports.”

The EU consultation documents also revealed more details of how EES will work on a practical level for car passengers – those travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel to France – with border agents set to use computer tablets to gather biometric information like fingerprints so that passengers don’t have to get out of their cars.

READ ALSO France to use iPads to check biometric data of passengers from UK

Doug Bannister added that Dover agents were “awaiting an invitation” to France to see how the new systems will work.