THE BBC covered up a Boris Johnson outburst in which he accused the French of being ‘turds’ over Brexit.
The crude remark, made when he was foreign secretary, was supposed to feature in a fly-on-the-wall TV documentary.
But the Foreign Office successfully begged for it to be cut, according to insiders. The claim is corroborated by a leaked Whitehall memo seen by the Mail. It said the gaffe would make Anglo-French relations ‘awkward’.
The crude remark, made when Boris was foreign secretary, (when he is pictured) was supposed to feature in a fly-on-the-wall TV documentary
Senior diplomats went further and privately said it would enrage French president Emmanuel Macron and make it even harder for the UK to achieve a good Brexit deal.
Mr Johnson’s undiplomatic language will be seized upon by his critics in an increasingly heated Tory leadership contest. In other developments in the race for No 10:
- Mr Johnson said anyone in his cabinet would have to sign up to leaving the EU by October 31
- The frontrunner also announced he would scrap business rates for standalone cashpoints;
- Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit chief, accused Mr Johnson of ‘foreigner-bashing’;
- It emerged that Jeremy Hunt saw his baby sister drown in the bath when he was two and in the care of their nanny;
- The Foreign Secretary was criticised for saying that Northern Ireland veterans should be treated the same as IRA terrorists;
- Theresa May refused to offer unconditional support for her successor’s Brexit strategy.
Mr Johnson made the ‘French turds’ jibe during a three-part documentary about the Foreign Office broadcast on BBC2 in November.
By the time it was shown he had resigned as foreign secretary in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit policy outlined at Chequers.
Since she was still trying to win concessions from the EU, the Foreign Office panicked when it was told the BBC planned to broadcast Mr Johnson’s offensive comment.
In bizarre secret ‘negotiations’, officials begged the corporation to censor it. Diplomats were also worried about another attack by the former London mayor on the French in the film in which he accused them of ‘shafting Britain’.
The BBC initially stood firm, telling the Foreign Office they 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 – to ‘promote Global Britain to a UK audience’.
In the end the BBC agreed to remove Mr Johnson’s ‘French turds’ remark but kept his ‘shafted’ comment in the programme.
Senior diplomats went further and privately said it would enrage French president Emmanuel Macron and make it even harder for the UK to achieve a good Brexit deal
Boris ‘plans emergency No Deal budget’
An emergency budget for a No Deal Brexit is being planned by Boris Johnson if he becomes prime minister, it was reported last night.
The leadership hopeful is said to be planning major tax cuts, an overhaul of stamp duty and revamp of regulations to leave the EU without a deal.
Mr Johnson is also considering abolishing stamp duty on homes worth less than £500,000 if he wins, as well as reversing George Osborne’s stamp duty hike on more expensive homes. Currently, only the first £125,000 of a home is exempt from stamp duty – with Mr Osborne raising the tax on properties worth more than £1.5 million from 7 per cent to 12 per cent. The budget, which is normally held in October or November, would be brought forward to September, ahead of the October 31 deadline.
Mr Johnson believes it would help the economy go ‘gangbusters’ to mitigate leaving without a deal, according to The Times. Sources close to him refused to comment on the reports last night.
It was also claimed Mr Johnson has offered Sajid Javid the role of chancellor in a future government. Mr Johnson’s team is expected to outline his plans next week at a meeting chaired by Sir Edward Lister, who is working on a blueprint for his first 100 days in office should he win.
The reports came as Theresa May last night refused to offer unconditional support for her successor’s Brexit strategy.
Mrs May urged the next Tory leader to pursue a negotiated agreement and warned against suspending Parliament to drive through No Deal.
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.’
The disclosure of the way Mr Johnson’s ‘French turds’ comment was kept quiet will also raise questions about the independence of the BBC. 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.’
Mr Johnson’s critics will see the episode as further evidence of his unsuitability to be prime minister. His supporters may counter that his provocative remarks are part of his appeal.
At his campaign launch a fortnight ago, Mr Johnson vowed to continue speaking his mind after he was challenged about such remarks.
He said: ‘I will continue to speak as directly as I can. 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.’
Mr Verhofstadt, an EU federalist and former Belgian PM, yesterday attacked both Tory leadership candidates and said real trading power came only through being an EU member
When he quit as foreign secretary he told Mrs May to her face that her EU withdrawal agreement was like ‘polishing a turd’.
Mr Verhofstadt, an EU federalist and former Belgian PM, yesterday attacked both Tory leadership candidates and said real trading power came only through being an EU member. ‘The debate between the candidates confirms that they have learned nothing whatsoever from the past two years of negotiations with the EU,’ he insisted.
‘Sadly, this comes as no surprise, given that the lead candidate is Boris Johnson, the Leave campaign’s most prominent architect and a man who continues to dissemble, exaggerate, and disinform the public about Brexit.’
In a column for media organisation Project Syndicate he said that Mr Johnson had ‘drummed up fears’ over EU membership, was ‘foreigner-bashing’ and will ‘most likely soon find himself in a position where he must make good on his promises’.
He added: ‘To Johnson’s followers, however, he is more prophet than politician. Only he can deliver a mythical ‘true Brexit’ that will deliver the prosperity promised during the referendum campaign.’ Mr Verhofstadt also cited recent trade deals with Japan and Canada and a deal expected to be announced in days with the South American Mercosur bloc.
He added: ‘Europe will have offered still more proof that Brexit is not only unnecessary but also detrimental to Britain’s economic interests. The ‘buccaneering’ Brexiteers might then finally have to explain what it is they’re still complaining about.’
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.
Neither Mr Johnson nor the Foreign Office responded to requests for comment last night.