Boris Johnson called pathetic over 2018 Russia World Cup threat
6 March 2018, 16:47
Boris Johnson has been criticised as "pathetic" over his response to the apparent poisoning of a former Russian spy, after he appeared to suggest England could pull out of this summer's World Cup.
The Foreign Secretary told MPs on Tuesday it is "very difficult to imagine how UK representation at that event could go ahead in the normal way", if there is shown to be state responsibility around Sergei Skripal and his daughter who were found unconscious in a shopping centre in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Monday.
Mr Skripal, 66, and 33-year-old Yulia are being treated in intensive care after being discovered slumped on a bench following suspected exposure to an unknown substance.
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Answering an urgent question in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson revealed the UK Government "will certainly have to consider" their approach to the World Cup, if "things turn out as many Members on both sides of this House suspect they will".
The Foreign Secretary's comments prompted a belief he was suggesting the England football team may not travel to Russia in 100 days time.
However, it was later clarified Mr Johnson was referring to the possibility that officials, dignitaries and ministers may not attend the World Cup, not that England would boycott the tournament.
Former England defender and assistant manager Gary Neville branded Mr Johnson a "useless fool", asking on Twitter: "Why bring football into it?"
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry suggested "it really would save a lot of time and hassle if Boris preceded every Commons appearance, media interview and memo by saying 'please take none of this seriously until my aides have confirmed if I meant to say it'."
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Fellow Labour MP Toby Perkins, whose question in the House of Commons about Russia's role on the UN Security Council prompted Mr Johnson's comments, told Sky News the muddle caused by the Foreign Secretary was "incredible".
"It would be insane if he's just speaking off the top of his head and raising this major sort of storm over something that he hasn't properly thought through," Mr Perkins said.
"But, if what he's actually saying is that our potential response to a British citizen being murdered is to say we're going to not eat a few prawn sandwiches with dignitaries before the game, then that's a really pathetic response.
"I think there's a lot of frustration in Parliament that the Foreign Secretary appears to have such big rhetoric and so little action when it comes to Russia.
"And the confusion that's being created over the World Cup is just adding to that anger."
Mr Perkins added the "entire international community" should have been pressuring World Cup organisers FIFA to move the tournament out of Russia as far back as two years ago, in order to recognise the country "as a pariah state".
He called on Mr Johnson to bring forward a "serious programme of sanctions" on Russia.
Earlier, Mr Johnson had noted "echoes" of the death of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 in the Skripal case.
He told MPs: "Although it would be wrong to prejudge the investigation, I can reassure the House that, should evidence emerge that implies state responsibility, Her Majesty's Government will respond appropriately and robustly."
(c) Sky News 2018: Boris Johnson called pathetic over 2018 Russia World Cup threat