Hunt and Johnson criticise Trump remarks but decline to call them racist

July 15, 2019

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have criticised Donald Trump after he told four US congresswomen to "go back" to the "broken and crime infested places from which they came" - but declined to condemn the remarks as racist.

The Tory leadership contenders joined Theresa May in criticising Mr Trump, while also talking up the prospect of striking a post-Brexit free-trade deal with his administration.

The pair clashed in a debate hosted by The Sun and talkRadio as the contest enters its closing stages, with a winner announced next week.

The issue of relations between London and Washington has, along with Brexit, dominated the campaign.

Supporters of Brexit have long championed a UK-US deal as one of the chief benefits of leaving the EU.

But Mr Trump's "America First" approach and controversial rhetoric present Mrs May's successor with a delicate balancing act when it comes to building strong ties with Washington.

This was highlighted once again when the president told the four congresswomen of colour to go back to their "broken and crime infested" countries - an attack widely condemned as racist.

Mrs May - who will hand over to her successor on 24 July - called the comments "completely unacceptable".

Asked whether he agreed with Mrs May, Mr Johnson replied: "If you are the leader of a great multiracial, multicultural society you simply cannot use that kind of language about sending people back to where they came from.

"That went out decades and decades ago and thank heavens for that, so it's totally unacceptable and I agree with the prime minister."

:: Listen to Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts,Spotify, Spreaker

Mr Johnson was pressed on whether he thought the comments were racist, replying: "I simply can't understand how a leader of that country can come to say it."

Pressed once again, he replied: "You can take from what I said what I think about President Trump's words."

Asked the same question, Mr Hunt also said he agreed with the current PM.

"I have three half-Chinese children, and they are British citizens born on the NHS, and if anyone ever said to them 'go back to China', I would be utterly appalled," he said.

"And I would say something else, it is totally un-British to do that and so I hope that would never happen in this country."

Like Mr Johnson, he was asked if he thought Mr Trump's comments were racist.

Mr Hunt said: "I think that, look I'm foreign secretary, this is a president of a country which happens to be our closest ally and so it is not going to help the situation to use that kind of language about the president of the United States.

"I can understand how many people in this country would want politicians like me to use those words and would feel that sentiment but I will make absolutely clear, I hope I have made absolutely clear, how totally offensive it is to me that people are still saying that kind of thing."

Mr Trump has not backed away from his remarks however, saying on Monday that anyone unhappy with life in the US can leave.

As well as criticising Mr Trump, both candidates talked up the prospect of a free-trade deal with the US.

Mr Hunt says striking an agreement was "very likely", but cautioned it would not happen "incredibly quickly".

Mr Johnson told the audience that negotiations could begin "right away" and although they would be "tough" a "great deal" was possible.

On Brexit, Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson said they would not accept a time-limit on the Irish border backstop, the element of Mrs May's deal that saw it defeated three times in parliament.

Brussels has insisted that the insurance policy, which is designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, is non-negotiable and must remain in any deal.

"I'm not attracted to time limits or unilateral escape hatches or all these elaborate devices, glosses, codicils and so on that you could apply to the backstop," Mr Johnson said.

Mr Hunt agreed, adding: "The backstop, as it is, is dead ... I don't think tweaking it with a time limit will do the trick, we've got to find a new way."

Also in the 90-minute head to head:

:: Mr Johnson declined to talk about his private life, including who would live with him in Downing Street if he becomes PM
:: Both candidates were asked if Jeremy Corbyn is personally antisemitic. Mr Hunt said "unfortunately, he may be", while Mr Johnson replied: "I think by condoning antisemitism in the way he does, I am afraid he is effectively culpable of that vice"
:: Mr Johnson pledged he would not call a snap election upon becoming PM, saying he would deliver Brexit first
:: The former foreign secretary did not commit to bringing down net migration, telling the debate that he was "not going to get into some numbers game"
:: Mr Hunt said Brexit voters would think politicians were "betraying the spirit" if numbers did not fall
:: Both men ruled out supporting any US military action against Iran.

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Latest Tweets

RT @rotarydriffield: Winning team from Florida Marquees take the £200 prize on a raft sponsored by Clifton Timber. Congratulations https://…
RT @rotarydriffield: Winners of the plate. The Motley Crew. Well done https://t.co/VZXadtFAkg
SPORT ALERT- @DriffieldJfc #driffield #wolds #eastriding RT https://t.co/g2OdMe5v0h
Follow GreatDriffieldRadio on Twitter