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Macron called Boris Johnson ‘un clown’, French press reports

Emmanuel Macron has branded Boris Johnson “un clown” in private conversations with advisers, according to reports in the French press.

The magazine Le Canard Enchaîné quoted the French president as saying that he was able to have serious conversations with the prime minister in private, only to find him “giving us a hard time” in public later.

And it said that Mr Macron told members of his inner circle that the prime minister apologised in private for making France a scapegoat over issues ranging from small boats in the Channel to fishing and the so-called “sausage war”, but told the president that he had to do so for the sake of British public opinion.

The report came as former French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann told Times Radio that cross-Channel relations had “never been as bad since Waterloo”.

The paper - a satirical and investigative publication similar to Private Eye - said the comments were made after Mr Macron discovered that Johnson had tweeted a letter to the president setting out UK demands for France to take back migrants who cross the English Channel.

The publication of Mr Johnson’s six-page letter before Mr Macron had had a chance to see it provoked a furious response from Paris, which withdrew an invitation for home secretary Priti Patel to join a meeting of European interior ministers to discuss the small boat problem.

According to the magazine, Mr Macron complained of Mr Johnson’s behaviour after speaking by phone with the PM immediately after last Wednesday’s tragic sinking of an inflatable boat in which 27 people died.

Describing Mr Johnson as having “the attitude of a vulgarian”, the president reportedly added: “BoJo talks to me at full speed, everything is going fine, we have discussions like big people, and then he gives us a hard time before or afterwards in an inelegant way.

“It’s always the same circus.”

Three days later on Saturday, following the publication of Mr Johnson’s letter, Mr Macron is reported to have said: “It is sad to see a major country with which we could do huge numbers of things, led by a clown.”

The French president is reported to have blamed the PM’s attitude on the failure of Brexit.

“Brexit is the starting point of the Johnson circus,” he is reported to have said. The deal was signed on 24 December 2020.

“Very quickly he realised that the situation was catastrophic for the British. There was no petrol in the pumps, there were shortages of a whole pile of products.

“He is positioning himself as the victim and making France the scapegoat. He tries to turn simple situations into complex problems.

“We’ve been in this position since March. He’s done it over the ‘sausage war’ over fishing, over the submarine affair.

“In private he says he’s sorry to behave like this, but he says that he has to consider public opinion over everything else.”

Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson said he had not seen the report.

But he added: “The important thing that the public on both sides of the Channel want us to do is to focus on how we avoid further loss of life.”

There was no immediate response from the Elysée Palace to a request from The Independent for comment on the Canard Enchaîné report.