Brexit memo to Boris Johnson: Don't mention the War

John Cleese as Basil Fawlty in The Germans, am episode of Fawlty Towers
Image caption Basil Fawlty discovered that some subjects were taboo

Like some latter-day Basil Fawlty, Boris Johnson mentioned the War and didn't get away with it.

The foreign secretary urged the French president not to "administer punishment beatings" on Britain for choosing to escape the EU "rather in the manner of some World War Two movie".

Not surprisingly, uproar has ensued. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Johnson had shown once again that he could be "supremely clever and yet immensely stupid".

To some Britons, Mr Johnson's remarks will be seen as colourful but unexceptional language that echoes the popular World War Two film The Great Escape.

To many of Mr Johnson's generation, these films were part of their childhood and are subject to frequent cultural reference. Former Prime Minister David Cameron has seen The Guns of Navarone more than 17 times and once quoted a line from the film in a party conference speech.

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Hope for a fresh settlement in Cyprus

  • 8 January 2017
  • From the section Europe
Derelict airliner at Nicosia airport
Image caption Nicosia airport was abandoned in 1974

There is small corner of Europe where time has stood still since 1974. Whole neighbourhoods lie deserted. Houses crumble gently into empty streets.

Cars that were once new and shiny sit enshrouded in dust in garages. Debris litters the runway of a former international airport, the solitary abandoned passenger jet a ghostly reminder of the tourists who used to arrive here daily.

Read full article Hope for a fresh settlement in Cyprus

The problem with Boris Johnson's Saudi comments

Boris Johnson Image copyright PA
Image caption Mrs May's official spokeswoman came down on Mr Johnson like a tonne of black-edged Downing Street bricks

It is Boris Johnson's fate that even when he is right he is wrong.

Few would disagree with the foreign secretary when he says that Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaging in proxy wars in the Middle East.

Read full article The problem with Boris Johnson's Saudi comments

What the Farage ambassador row could mean for UK-US relations

  • 22 November 2016
  • From the section UK
The UK and US flags Image copyright Getty Images

At Number 3100 Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, high enough up the hill to catch a breeze in this most airless of cities, lies a small corner of a foreign field that in theory is forever England.

For it is here that one finds the British embassy and one of the finest ambassador's residences in the world.

Read full article What the Farage ambassador row could mean for UK-US relations

Defining a role for Boris

  • 17 November 2016
  • From the section Europe
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Image copyright AP

Boris Johnson is one of those few politicians whose notoriety gives their utterances a wider audience than Westminster.

It is why he was such an effective advocate for Leave during the referendum. And it is why the prime minister will use him to sell the Brexit deal when eventually it is struck.

Read full article Defining a role for Boris

What kind of relationship will Trump have with the UK?

  • 15 November 2016
  • From the section World
Donald Trump looks to the flag after he addressed supporters Image copyright Getty Images

In the arc of history, Britain has rarely flourished when it has had to choose between Europe and the United States.

The greatest foreign policy disasters have tended to come when the UK has either ignored America - such as when it joined France in invading Suez - or when it has followed the US too blindly, as in the invasion of Iraq, against the warnings of many in Europe.

Read full article What kind of relationship will Trump have with the UK?

What will Trump's foreign policy look like?

Donald Trump holding the flag of the USA Image copyright Reuters

So what now? The election of Donald Trump presents Britain with many challenges and some opportunities.

The president-elect is the son of a Scot, he owns property and golf courses north of the border, and says nice things about Britain when he visits. "Britain's been a great ally," he said in May. "With me, they'll always be treated fantastically."

Read full article What will Trump's foreign policy look like?

Can Theresa May resist temptation to mock Boris?

Theresa May and Boris Johnson Image copyright PA
Image caption The prime minister has publicly mocked her foreign secretary before

Theresa May is going to have to start taking Boris Johnson seriously if she wants the world to do likewise.

Last night I sat on the same table as the foreign secretary at the Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards. He was given a gong for "comeback of the year" after his failed leadership bid propelled him into King Charles Street.

Read full article Can Theresa May resist temptation to mock Boris?

Priti Patel walks UK aid budget tightrope

Priti Patel in Kenya

Priti Patel is standing in the control tower of Mombasa port on the east coast of Kenya. Outside the windows she has a bird's eye view of the sprawling seaway, gateway for much of east Africa's trade.

And the international development secretary is doing something that belies her reputation: she is nodding approvingly as she hears how British taxpayers' money is being spent helping a foreign country boost its economy.

Read full article Priti Patel walks UK aid budget tightrope

UN secretary general: The hardest job in the world?

  • 5 October 2016
  • From the section Europe
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres arrives for a visit at the Midyat refugee camp in Mardin, south-eastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, on 20 June 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption Antonio Guterres will become the next UN secretary general in early 2017

The United Nations, in the words of one diplomat I spoke to, is "broken and disheartened". So the task for the next Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, is to mend the organisation and give it some heart.

The outgoing incumbent, Ban Ki-moon, has been praised for his soft-spoken persistence in persuading the international community to do more on climate change.

Read full article UN secretary general: The hardest job in the world?