Boris Johnson called the French “turds” for trying to sabotage Brexit in an explosive rant censored by the BBC, it has been claimed.
The Tory leadership candidate reportedly made the remark while being filmed for a fly-on-the-wall documentary about his time as foreign secretary.
Johnson made the remark while being filmed for a documentary about his time as foreign secretary[/caption]
Foreign Office officials were concerned the remark would worsen Anglo-French relations[/caption]
The BBC apparently agreed with the Foreign Office that the remark would not be featured amid concerns that it would make Anglo-French relations “awkward”.
The claim is corroborated by a leaked Whitehall memo seen by the Daily Mail.
Senior diplomats went further and said privately that the remark would enrage French president Emmanuel Macron, and make it even harder for the UK to achieve a good Brexit deal.
The revelation comes as the race to replace Theresa May as Tory leader and prime minister heats up.
Johnson is currently the front runner ahead of incumbent foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, with both candidates pledging to secure a better Brexit deal than the one already negotiated.
Johnson previously served for two years as Britain’s foreign secretary, resigning before the documentary aired in November in protest at the Brexit policy outlined by Theresa May at the so-called Chequers summit last July.
The foreign office is thought to have been panicked by the thought of the comments being made public at a time when Theresa May was still trying to win concessions from the EU in negotiations.
Diplomats were also worried about another point in the film at which Johnson accused the French of “shafting Britain”.
The BBC initially stood firm, telling the Foreign Office it planned to broadcast both remarks on the grounds that it was an accurate and fair portrayal of Mr Johnson at work.
The Foreign Office countered that Mr Johnson’s comment could cause “significant damage” to Britain.
They said it made a mockery of the government’s aim in agreeing to the documentary, which had been to “promote Global Britain to a UK audience”.
The BBC eventually agreed to remove Mr Johnson’s “French turds” remark but kept the “shafted” comment in the programme.
At a Tory leadership hustings last night, Johnson vowed to play hardball with the EU over Brexit, adding that he had been “depressed” by Theresa May’s approach to the negotiations.
The leaked memo, dated November 13, states: “We negotiated the removal of one potentially awkward moment where the former foreign secretary calls the French ‘turds’ so as not to distract from the rest of the programme.”
A BBC spokesman said: “The programme set out to reflect the realities of life inside the Foreign Office.
“The production team made judgements about what was in the programme and they are satisfied that the programme achieves its ambitions and has the content they wanted.”
At his campaign launch a fortnight ago, Mr Johnson vowed to continue speaking his mind after being challenged about similar remarks made in the past.
“I will continue to speak as directly as I can,” he said.
“Occasionally some plaster comes off the ceiling as a result of a phrase I may have used, or the way that phrase has been wrenched out of context by those who wish for reasons of their own to caricature.”
But Mr Johnson’s critics will see the episode as further evidence of his unsuitability to be prime minister.
Last week, police were called to the apartment Johnson shares with girlfriend Carrie Symonds after neighbours heard a loud row between the pair in which she had said “get off me” and “get out of my flat”.
Johnson has subsequently refused to discuss the incident in public.
Some in the EU dread Mr Johnson becoming prime minister because they believe he will carry on demanding the withdrawal agreement be reopened – something Brussels has repeatedly ruled out. Others believe he may be able to sell a tweaked version of Mrs May’s plan to MPs.
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