Boris: We're leaving the EU, but we're not leaving Europe


Boris Johnson insisted Brexit will not see the UK "abandon its leading role" in Europe as the new Foreign Secretary made his debut on the international stage.

Arriving for his first meeting of the EU's Foreign Affairs Council this morning, Johnson also called on the Turkish government to show "restraint" after the crackdown following the attempted military coup.

Johnson said he had had a productive 45-minute meeting with EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini on Sunday and was looking forward to presenting a positive case for Brexit.

He said: "It's very, very good to be here for my first overseas trip.

"The message I'll be taking to our friends in the Council is that we have to give effect to the will of the people and leave the European Union.

"But that in no sense means we are leaving Europe. We are not going to be in any way abandoning our leading role in European participation and co-operation of all kinds.

"I had a very good conversation to that effect with High Representative Mogherini and she very much agreed that is a role Britain should continue to play.

Boris Johnson  (Lauren Hurley/PA)
This is Boris' first European trip as foreign secretary (Lauren Hurley/PA)

"When you look at the discussion on the table this morning over the horrific events in Nice, and Turkey where we have to work very closely together, you see the importance of that.

"In the meantime, I am very much looking forward to meeting my colleagues from other European countries."

Mogherini sidestepped questions about whether it would be "awkward" dealing with Johnson after he compared the EU's ambitions to those of Hitler during the referendum campaign, saying that the two had a "very positive exchange" at their meeting.

Mogherini (Wu Hong/AP)
Mogherini said Boris will be welcomed (Wu Hong/AP)

The EU foreign affairs chief said Johnson would be welcomed "as a new member of the family".

But Mogherini stressed negotiations could not start on Brexit details until London formally triggered withdrawal under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

"There are no negotiations before the notification of Article 50 is tabled. Until that negotiation comes to an end, the UK is a full member of the EU so our common work on foreign and security policy continues," she said.