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‘Boris Johnson’s departure is new page’: Ex-Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier reacts

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Lord David Frost, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Michel Barnier in Brussels (Etienne Ansotte/PA)

Lord David Frost, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Michel Barnier in Brussels (Etienne Ansotte/PA)

PA

Lord David Frost, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Michel Barnier in Brussels (Etienne Ansotte/PA)

The EU’s former Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said the resignation of Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader “opens a new page” in UK-EU relations.

It’s after Mr Johnson announced his resignation outside Downing Street on Thursday.

He had faced a mass revolt by ministers over his leadership, sparked by the dramatic resignation of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Tuesday evening.

In his speech, Mr Johnson promised that he and his cabinet would to serve the country's interest until a new leader is chosen. He said he was proud of his achievements in office, including taking the UK out of the EU.

Responding to the news on Thursday, Michel Barnier, now a French presidential hopeful, said: “The departure of Boris Johnson opens a new page in relations with Great Britain.”

Mr Barnier said he hoped any future relationship would be “more respectful of peace and stability in Northern Ireland”.

“May it be more constructive, more respectful of commitments made, in particular regarding peace & stability in NI, and more friendly with partners in [the EU].

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“Because there’s so much more to be done together,” he said.

In his speech, Mr Johnson said it is "painful not to be able to see through so many projects and ideas" and said he had tried to persuade colleagues it would be "eccentric" to change leader and blamed the "herd instinct" in Westminster for his exit.

He said a timetable for a leadership contest would be announced next week – where the winner will become the next UK prime minister.

Speaking outside Downing Street, he said: "The reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person, was not just because I wanted to do so, because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to do what we promised in 2019."

"I regret not to have been successful in those arguments," he said but acknowledged that the will of his party was "clear".

"In politics, no one is remotely indispensable," he said adding: "I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world, but them's the breaks."

He also said he had led "the West in standing up to Putin's aggression in Ukraine".

Addressing the Ukrainian people he said: "We in the UK will continue to back your fight for freedom for as long as it takes."

President Volodymyr Zelensky praised Mr Johnson for "realising the threat of RF[Russian Federation] monster and always being at the forefront of supporting [Ukraine]."


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