Boris Johnson draws criticism after comparing Brexit to Ukraine defense


March 19 (UPI) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson compared Brexit to Ukraine’s defense against a Russian invasion in a speech on Saturday, claiming both decisions reflect an instinct to “choose freedom.”

“I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom every time,” Johnson said in his speech at the Conservative Party Conference on Saturday. “I can give you a couple recent examples.”


“When the British people voted for Brexit in such large numbers, I don’t believe it was that they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself,” Johnson said.

He also pointed to the country’s high COVID-19 vaccination rates.

“It was because they wanted to get on with their lives. It’s because they were fed up being told what to do by people like me,” Johnson said.

The comparison between Ukraine’s defense of its borders and the UK’s decision to voluntarily leave the European Union sparked outrage and astonishment across the continent.

Donald Tusk, former president of the European Council and an ex-prime minister of Poland, told The Guardian that the Ukrainian people would be upset by Johnson’s remarks.


“Boris Johnson likens Ukrainians’ fight to British people voting for Brexit. I can still remember the enthusiasm of Putin and Trump after the referendum. Boris, your words offend Ukrainians, the British and common sense.”

Johnson’s comparison also came just a few weeks after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the EU to grant Ukraine membership.

“Brexit was about undoing freedoms and leaving the EU,” Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian prime minister who led the European parliament in Brexit negotiations, told The Guardian. “Ukrainians want more freedom and to join the EU.”

He added that Johnson’s comments were “insane.”

Even supporters of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, like talkRADIO TV presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer, called the comparison between Brexit and Ukraine “totally cringe.”

“Comparing the vote to leave the EU with the Ukrainian people fighting for their lives against a foreign invader is an insult to their bravery and sacrifice,” she wrote on Twitter.