Boris Johnson has sidestepped calls to comment on Donald Trump’s call to stop the counting of votes in the US election saying: “We don’t comment as the UK government on the democratic processes of our friends and allies.”
He had been asked by the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, at prime minister’s questions in the Commons whether he agreed that “it’s not for the candidate to say which votes do or don’t count or when to stop counting” in the US election.
Earlier on Wednesday, the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, had urged patience in waiting for the final outcome.
Trump falsely claimed victory in the race for the presidency in the early hours of Wednesday morning, even as the election remained too close to call with millions of votes yet to be counted.
He baselessly claimed “a very sad group of people is trying to disfranchise” his supporters and confirmed the worst fears of activists and analysts who predicted Trump would use spurious arguments to stop legitimate mail-in votes from being counted.
Other senior UK Conservatives, including the former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, have said it would be a disaster for the democratic cause worldwide if the election ends with accusations of fraud.
Johnson is personally close to Trump, but will want to keep the UK government out of the controversy over the conduct of the vote and while it may be in Johnson’s personal interest to see Trump – an enthusiastic supporter of Brexit – re-elected, the Foreign Office’s long-term alignment on issues such as China, the Iran nuclear deal and the climate crisis leaves British diplomats more comfortable with a more predictable Biden presidency.
Trump does not want to see the EU and the UK develop close trade or security relations after the UK’s Brexit’s transition period ends this December.
Trump’s close UK supporter Nigel Farage backed Trump’s claims the election was being stolen but, when pressed to produce evidence, he was unable to do so, saying the evidence was “so new it has not yet come to light”.
The shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, argued that in a “normal election” Labour would be more impartial but statements from the US president had put the country’s democracy “at stake”.
The Labour foreign affairs spokesperson said: “We are in completely uncharted territory, and this is not like any election in my lifetime … The truth is Britain is not just a disinterested observer in this election. Everything is riding on the outcome of this election and I think that statement [on stopping vote counts]has proven why. That questions of democracy, people’s right to be heard and free and fair elections are absolutely at stake in this election.
“America has, for a long time, stepped into the role as leader of the free world. And what America does matters, it sends reverberations around the world and so there is a huge amount riding on the outcome of this election.”