French diplomat brands Boris Johnson 'a liar' who will blame Brexit costs on Covid

Sylvie Bermann, France's Ambassador to the UK, speaks to the media outside the French Embassy in Lon

Sylvie Bermann, France's former ambassador to the UK, speaks to the media outside the French Embassy in London - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson is "an unrepentant and inveterate liar" who is not subject to the same rules as others, a former French diplomat to the UK has said in her new book.

Sylvie Bermann, the French ambassador to the UK during the Brexit vote, also claimed Brexiteers were consumed with a hatred for Germany and were gripped by a myth that they liberated Europe on their own during World War II.

Bermann described Brexit as a triumph of emotion over reason, won by a campaign full of lies in which negative attitudes to migration were exploited by figures such as Johnson and Michael Gove.

Ambassador to the UK from 2014 to 2017, Bermann is one of the most senior diplomats in the French diplomatic service to attack the UK government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which she said was one of the worst in the world, alongside that of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.

She predicted Johnson would seek to use Covid to mask the true economic cost of Brexit on the UK economy.

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Johnson, she says, comes from an Eton and Oxford University class that believes they are entitled to use language to provoke. Describing him as intelligent and charming, he uses "lies to embellish reality, as a game and as an instrument of power. The ends justify the means. He has no rules”.

In her book Goodbye Britannia, Bermann described the psyche that led to Brexit. She describes "the partisans of Brexit as reciting a history in which the UK is never defeated, never invaded". She suggests a country that considers it singlehandedly won the second world war, liberating the continent and deserving of gratitude.

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Referencing the more than 22 million Russians who died in the second world war she says "this does not disturb the discourse of the Brexiters who peddle the myth that the UK liberated Europe alone and needs no one".

She said France had a debt of gratitude to the British but that it was "right to remember that they were not alone and you cannot live with a history that stopped in June 1944".

She also claimed David Cameron did not take the threat of losing the Brexit referendum seriously and described the defeat as the first signs of populism taking hold of a government in Europe.

In the book, she asks: "How this country whose influence had been decisive in Brussels, which insolently rolled out the red carpet for French entrepreneurs and which Xi Jinping had elected in October 2015 as the gateway to Europe, at the dawn of a golden period, how has it undertaken to scuttle itself?"

She predicted: "Boris Johnson’s temptation will be to hide the bill for Brexit under the Covid carpet, valued at more than £200bn for 2020, almost as much as the United Kingdom’s total contribution to the European Union since its accession in 1973, which was £215bn.”

She said it was inevitable that the UK will struggle now to find influence outside the EU, and has a Scottish independence referendum hanging over its head.

She said she believed the EU would feel obliged to open talks with Scotland in the event of a referendum vote to leave the UK, but that is not the official EU position, partly due to pressure from Spain. Madrid fears the knock-on impact among Catalan separatists if an independent Scotland was allowed to join the EU.

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