LONDON — Global leaders have reacted to Boris Johnson’s resignation, with the Kremlin in particular expressing pleasure at the U.K. prime minister’s exit.
Johnson announced Thursday that it’s time for his party to choose a new leader and, therefore, a prime minister after more than 50 people resigned from his government in protest at his leadership.
As events unfolded in the U.K. Thursday, the spokesperson for the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov said: “He doesn’t like us, we don’t like him either,” according to a Reuters translation.
The Kremlin and the Foreign Ministry were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
Speaking Friday morning, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign affairs minister, said that Johnson “kept saying that Russia should be isolated, while his own party has isolated Boris Johnson himself instead.”
“I don’t even want to comment on this, because Boris Johnson, with all his activities as Prime Minister, and as Foreign Minister, proved that he is a man who primarily chases after superficial effects, holds on to power in order to raise his political career in every possible way.”
The acrimonious relationship between Boris Johnson and Russian leader Vladimir Putin might not come as a surprise to many. Johnson’s military support to Ukraine has often raised criticism in Russia. In fact, Moscow banned Johnson from entering Russia as part of a wider package of sanctions related to the war.
But Johnson’s departure will almost definitely not mean a change in policy toward Ukraine and Russia.
“Let me say now to the people of Ukraine that I know, we in the U.K. will continue to back your fight for freedom for as long as it takes,” Johnson said during his resignation speech Thursday.
Meanwhile, the reaction from Kyiv was, naturally, the opposite.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Johnson spoke Thursday after the resignation speech. Zelenskyy “thanked the Prime Minister for his decisive action on Ukraine, and said the Ukrainian people were grateful for the UK’s efforts,” according to a Downing Street spokeswoman.
“The Prime Minister highlighted the UK’s unwavering cross-party support for President Zelenskyy’s people, and said the UK would continue to supply vital defensive aid for as long as needed,” the same spokesperson said.
Biden avoids Johnson reference
Across the Atlantic, U.S. President Joe Biden avoided making references about Johnson specifically, but said he is looking forward to working with the U.K. government.
“The United Kingdom and the United States are the closest of friends and Allies, and the special relationship between our people remains strong and enduring,” Biden said in a statement, according to Reuters.
In the European Union, officials are now hoping for better relations with the United Kingdom.
Johnson’s government had been trying to change the details of a trade agreement it had signed with the EU following the U.K.’s departure from the bloc — a move that did not go well in Brussels. EU officials, in fact, started legal action in June against the U.K.
Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament, said Thursday on Twitter: “EU-UK relations suffered hugely with Johnson’s choice of Brexit. Things can only get better!”
Former Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also said “the departure of Boris Johnson opens a new page in relations with the United Kingdom.”
“May it be more constructive, more respectful of commitments made, in particular regarding peace & stability in Norther Ireland, and more friendly with partners,” he added.
However, the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU will very much depend on Johnson’s replacement.