Johnson—whom some have likened to Donald Trump—ultimately supported the Leave campaign ahead of the U.K.'s referendum last month and compared the EU to Adolph Hitler in its attempt to unify Europe.
His appointment, announced Wednesday, was met with fury throughout the continent.
As the foreign secretary, Johnson will represent Britain on the world stage and play a key role in the Brexit negotiations. French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault said the appointment was "a sign of the British political crisis that has come out of the referendum vote."
Speaking in an interview with Europe 1 radio, Ayrault said, "During the campaign, he lied a lot to the British people and now it is he who has his back against the wall. [He has] his back against the wall to defend his country but also with his back against the wall the relationship with Europe should be clear."
"I need a partner with whom I can negotiate and who is clear, credible and reliable," Ayrault added.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier slammed Johnson's conduct, saying that he had acted in a "monstrous" manner by deceiving voters before the referendum and ducking responsibility after the results came in.
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"People [in the UK] are experiencing a rude awakening after irresponsible politicians first lured the country into Brexit and then, once the decision was made, decided to bolt from responsibility, and instead go off and play cricket," Steinmeier said. (Johnson played cricket the day after the Brexit decision.)
"To be honest, I find this outrageous," Steinmeier said, "but it's not just bitter for Great Britain. It's also bitter for the European Union."
NBC News compiled a list of six times Johnson behaved in a "deeply offensive" manner, including:
- writing in a 2008 column for the Daily Telegraph that Hillary Clinton had "dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital," a comment that was actually part of an endorsement for her presidential bid;
- describing President Barack Obama as "part-Kenyan" with an "ancestral dislike of the British empire;"
- saying of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "Despite looking a bit like Dobby the House Elf, he is a ruthless and manipulative tyrant;" and
- writing in 2002 that then-Prime Minister Tony Blair's visits to foreign nations would include "crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies" and that "tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles." (He apologized for those comments in 2008.)
In a Facebook post published Wednesday, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans denounced the "bigotry" of the Leave campaign and said, "What looks like daring hyperbole in public school debating clubs, good for a couple of laughs over beer, will be taken on face value by people who do not see all this as a game, but whose livelihood truly depends on it....hatred came into play and we have seen the effects."
The Guardian also quoted one unnamed EU diplomat who said, "It is important to have someone in place who allows for calm and serene negotiations. These are not the qualities we have seen from Boris Johnson so far."
Carl Bildt, the former prime minister of Sweden, simply tweeted:
I wish it was a joke, but I fear it isn't. Exit upon exit. pic.twitter.com/8qmlSkQNRj
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) July 13, 2016