Theresa May gives public backing to under-fire Boris Johnson

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Theresa May has given her public support to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after criticism of his performance.

The Prime Minister said Mr Johnson was doing an excellent job dealing with critical issues around the world.

She backed Mr Johnson following anonymous briefings claiming the Foreign Secretary is viewed as a "clown" and a "joke" in capitals around the world.

Asked if she had confidence in him, Mrs May told Sky News: "Yes, absolutely.

"Boris has been doing an excellent job and a lot of people focus on Brexit but remember there are a lot of issues that the Foreign Secretary is dealing with around the world, including, for example his recent trip to Libya which was a very important trip."

Mrs May, speaking after arriving in Japan on an official visit, said Mr Johnson was "dealing with some really crucial issues, critical issues, that are facing the world and ensuring that the United Kingdom is playing its part in trying to resolve those issues".

The focus on Mr Johnson's performance followed a scathing column in The Times on Tuesday quoting a diplomatic source claiming officials at Donald Trump's White House "don't want to go anywhere near Boris because they think he's a joke".

An unnamed minister told the newspaper: "It's worse in Europe. There is not a single foreign minister there who takes him seriously. They think he's a clown who can never resist a gag."