MP accuses Boris Johnson of sparking racist Twitter attacks against Angela Merkel

George Martin
Labour MP and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Chris Leslie addresses delegates at the Progress annual conference in central London on May 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL        (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Chris Leslie called on Michael Gove to condemn the series of tweets in the wake of Number 10's announcement. (Getty)

Boris Johnson has been accused of sparking racist attacks against German Chancellor Angela Merkel after it emerged she told him the prospect of a Brexit deal was “overwhelmingly unlikely”.

Chris Leslie, the MP for Nottinghamshire East, claimed a statement from Number 10 about the phone call between the two leaders on Tuesday had sparked a torrent of “racist” online abuse - most notably from Brexit campaign group Leave.EU.

Addressing cabinet minister Michael Gove in the Commons, Mr Leslie said: “I would ask the minister to reflect on the deliberate dog-whistle briefing put out by Number 10 against Angela Merkel.

“It has sparked a series of frankly racist attacks against the Germans from Leave.EU and others.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street in London, Britain, October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Mrs Merkel reportedly quashed Boris Johnson's hopes of securing a Brexit deal in a call on Tuesday. (Reuters)

“This is an extremely dangerous course for the government to embark on and I want to hear right now the minister condemn it and distance himself from it.”

Mr Gove replied: “I take this opportunity to entirely disassociate myself from any sort of racist or demeaning language towards Germany.

“They are our friends, our allies and they are a great country.”


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Leave.EU’s controversial tweet earlier on Tuesday referred to Mrs Merkel as a “kraut” and made reference to the Second and First World Wars.

The social media post featured a large black and white image of the politician alongside the caption: “We didn’t win two world wars to be pushed around by a kraut.”

“Angela Merkel's demand that Britain leaves Northern Ireland to rot inside the Customs Union is reprehensible and shows the true colours of our supposed ‘European allies’.

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“Enough of this nonsense, we walk away as an independent, self-governing nation in three weeks' time!”

After he delivered a statement on the Government’s Brexit readiness on Tuesday, Mr Gove also urged figures in public life to use language which “shows our respect for differing points of view even as we hold robustly to our own”.

He made the comments after he delivered a statement on the Government’s Brexit readiness, as the cabinet minister in charge of preparations for if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

MPs criticised anonymous briefings around Brexit coming out of Downing Street for their tone and rhetoric, and urged Mr Gove and the Prime Minister to intervene.

Former minister and Tory MP Andrew Mitchell asked Mr Gove: “Is he proud of the tone and character of quasi-official briefings and language coming out of Number 10. Does he think it is helpful?”

Mr Gove replied: “I think it is important for all of us in public life, whether we’re appearing here at the despatch box or working for Government ministers, or for opposition figures, to use language which shows our respect for differing points of view even as we hold robustly to our own.”

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