Tuesday 19 July 2016 5:23 pm

Boris Johnson facing bruising questions as John Kerry seeks to reaffirm the special relationship

Boris Johnson has had a bruising encounter in one of his first major outings as foreign secretary, facing repeated questions on his remarks about senior US officials as he stood alongside US secretary of state John Kerry.

Johnson and Kerry met in London today to discuss the special relationship between the US and the UK, as well as joint responses to terrorism.

However, while both affirmed their support for the ties between the two countries, the newly appointed foreign secretary also endured a grilling over his description of President Barack Obama's "ancestral dislike of the British empire", and his comments on Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, of whom he said: "She's got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital." 

Asked about the remarks today, Johnson refused to apologise, and sought instead to refocus debate on major foreign affairs challenges.

"I am afraid that there such a rich thesaurus now of things that I have said that have been one way or another – through what alchemy I do not know – someway misconstrued that it would take me too long to embark on a full global itinerary of apology to all concerned," he said.

"Most people who read these things in their proper context can see exactly was intended."

Responding to another question, Johnson said: "We could spend an awful lot of time going over lots of stuff that I've written over the last 30 years… but there are some serious issues before us."

Read More: Johnson accuses Barack Obama of hypocrisy on EU

Separately, Kerry indicated that despite Obama's pre-referendum warning that the UK would be left "at the back of the queue" to negotiate a trade deal with the US, the outgoing administration would engage in informal talks on a deal.

Noting that the UK was unable to sign an agreement until after it has left the EU, Kerry nonetheless said: "We are absolutely prepared to engage in conversations, it would be irresponsible not to."

And with Obama now in his White House swan song, Kerry also said that the US relied on a "strong", "engaged" and "united" UK as he declared the ties between the two nations to be "special and unbreakable"

"These are not just the words of diplomacy. This is a genuine expression of a feeling of friendship, built up over years of common sacrifice common endeavour, common interest and common values that have been shared consistently between us," Kerry said.

"No shift in administrations in either of our countries is going to alter or undermine the ties that we have."