Boris Johnson faced embarrassment in his first press conference as Foreign Secretary when he was challenged over previous disparaging comments about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Appearing alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry following meetings to discuss the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, he was accused of “outright lies” in newspaper columns and on the EU referendum campaign trail by US journalists.
Mr Johnson had claimed Mr Obama’s “part-Kenyan” ancestry made him hostile to the UK, and compared Ms Clinton to Lady Macbeth and a “sadistic nurse in a mental hospital”.
Batting away questions while Mr Kerry looked on awkwardly, Mr Johnson said: “We can all spend an awfully long time going over lots of stuff I have written over the last 30 years ... all of which, in my view, has been taken out of context, but never mind - but there are some serious issues before us today.”
He said a “rich thesaurus” of his comments had been “misconstrued”, adding that “it would really take me too long to engage in a full global itinerary of apology to all concerned”.
On Brexit, the US secretary of state said no trade agreement could be signed with the UK while it was still in the EU, but talks could take place.