Philip Sime

Theresa May’s first day and Boris at the Foreign Office: How the foreign press reacted

Theresa May's first day and Boris at the Foreign Office: How the foreign press reacted
Text settings

A new British Prime Minister is always big news on the continent and around the world. This time around, with Mrs May tasked with redefining Britain’s relationship with the EU, the foreign press has taken a special interest in recent events in Downing Street. One of the big stories aside from Britain's new Prime Minister taking up her role is Theresa May's decision to make Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary. Here's how the press around the world reacted to the news:


With France bracing itself for a protracted period of arduous negotiations with the UK, Britain's new Prime Minister is big news across the Channel. Le Figaro goes as far as to brand Theresa May Britain’s new 'Iron Lady'. Describing her as 'modest' and 'pragmatic', the newspaper suggests that her decision to appoint Boris Johnson to the 'legendary' Foreign Office shows her conciliatory side. Mr Johnson will probably have 'less influence' over the EU negotiations, the paper notes, pointing to the decision by May to appoint a 'Minister for Brexit'. Theresa May’s telephone call with François Hollande also makes the papers in France. The two leaders reportedly disagreed on the timetable for ‘Brexit’ negotiations. The French President is said to have called for talks to begin 'as soon as possible', while Mrs May insisted there must be 'time to prepare' before discussions commence. Elsewhere, Le Monde’s editorial concludes that Mrs May is a 'serious' politician and welcomes her taking up the role.


Having discussed the similarities between Mrs May and Mrs Merkel, the German press today reflects on the British Premier’s ascension to the highest office and the new role for Boris Johnson. Die Welt reports that Theresa May is borrowing the 'repertoire' of the left in her pledge to tackle the 'burning injustice' in society. The Frankfurter Allgemeine remarks that Boris Johnson, who believes the EU to be 'obsolete', is now in a 'very influential post'. The newspaper picks up on claims that the decision of the 'blond giant' to campaign to leave the EU was 'pure opportunism'.


The Spanish press strikes a more defensive tone in response to Mrs May’s Cabinet appointments. El Mundo believes that Theresa May is 'launching a challenge' to Europe by installing 'Europhobes' such as Boris Johnson and David Davis in high-profile Cabinet positions. News of such appointments went down as a 'cold shower' in Brussels, the paper adds. But Spain’s popular ABC newspaper is more optimistic: suggesting that the charismatic Boris Johnson will perhaps enjoy the 'colourful' Foreign Office portfolio.


Italy’s press picks up on the unique challenges which now face Theresa May following the vote to leave the EU. The 'twenty swirling days that changed Britain' came to an end as Theresa May entered Number 10, says Corriere della Sera. Mrs May 'will have to work hard' to deal with the economic challenges, it is suggested.


Following Boris Johnson’s fierce criticism of the EU institutions in Brussels, the Belgian press today leads on his new Cabinet position. Le Soir says Mr Johnson has 'rebounded spectacularly' to become Foreign Secretary, however, sarcastically suggests that his skills in international diplomacy 'remain to be seen'. The newspaper recalls some of Johnson’s controversial past, including the Spectator poem in which he insulted the Turkish President, his comparing of the EU with Hitler and his 'French-bashing'.

United States:

With ‘Brexit’ uncertainty plaguing the markets, the American press appears relieved to have a new Prime Minister in place across the pond. The New York Times calls on Theresa May to be 'both steady and bold' in the face of economic uncertainty and demand for a second Scottish independence referendum. Mrs May is viewed as a 'tough and unpretentious negotiator', the newspaper says. It suggests that, in her negotiations, she will have to 'find the right balance' between controls on immigration and access to the EU single market. Elsewhere, the focus is on rather more trivial matters. 'At last, some stability', declares the Washington Post, rejoicing in the news that Larry the cat will remain at 10 Downing Street under Theresa May’s premiership.