Boris Johnson has poured cold water on England’s World Cup chances, telling fans “not to let their hopes get away with them”.
The foreign secretary and Brexiteer-in-chief was criticised after downplaying Gareth Southgate’s side’s chances following their record 6-1 win over Panama at the weekend.
Mr Johnson, already facing attacks over his no-show at the Heathrow vote yesterday, was taking Foreign Office questions in the Commons when Conservative MP Scott Mann (North Cornwall) said: “Clearly football is coming home and England are making excellent progress in the World Cup.
“What advice has the Foreign Office got to England fans that might be thinking about travelling to Russia in the next few weeks?”
Mr Johnson replied: “My strong advice is to look at our Be on the Ball website to follow Foreign Office advice and not to let their hopes get away with them.”
It comes months after Mr Southgate said he had ‘little interest’ in Mr Johnson’s views on the World Cup in Russia after the foreign secretary floated the idea of boycotting it, comparing the event to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
Mr Southgate said at the time: “It’s of little interest to me what the foreign secretary thinks about it.”
Labour MP Virendra Sharma MP, a champion of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain campaign, said: “Having not had the balls to stay in the country for the Heathrow vote, Boris has now reappeared to pour cold water over England’s chances at the World Cup.
“This stuff is ripe for a sketch. The man who represents this country on the world stage and who opportunistically criticises others for not backing Britain on Brexit, no longer thinks the country is good enough after a 6-1 win.
“You’re not a pundit Boris. I’d say stick to the day job, but you don’t even do that these days.”
In the same session today, Tory MP Mary Robinson (Cheadle) claimed the UK could seek “speedy” free trade arrangements with other Commonwealth nations after Brexit, telling MPs the Australia-US free trade agreement was negotiated within little more than a year.
She added: “In the spirit of Commonwealth friendship, would he mind wishing the Socceroos [Australia’s national football team] every success in their game tonight?”
Mr Johnson replied: “I’ve been warned by my honourable friend that the Socceroos are playing Peru.
“I’ve just been to Peru and I wouldn’t want to forfeit any friendship I may have acquired on that mission.
“I wish both sides well in that encounter.”
It comes after a rough few days for the ardent Brexiteer. A vocal opponent of Heathrow expansion, he yesterday sparked derision after he missed the vote on it to be in Afghanistan, despite previously vowing to lie down in front of bulldozers to prevent the controversial project.
Critics pointed out he had hosted Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghan chief executive, in London less than three weeks ago, suggesting he had looked for somewhere to be in order to miss the vote.
And at the weekend it was reported that he had dismissed the concerns of business over Brexit by saying ‘f*** business’ to an ambassador.
Playing in a charity football match in 2006, Mr Johnson used his ample bulk to floor Germany’s Maurizio Gaudino in a rugby-style tackle.
England play Belgium in their final group stage game on Thursday.