LONDON Divorce talks with the EU could be so tough that "plaster may fall off the ceiling", but Prime Minister Theresa May will win a deal to help Britain forge a more global role, her foreign minister said on Wednesday.
In a speech at the London Mayor's banquet for business leaders, Boris Johnson portrayed Britain's decision to leave the European Union as a chance to regain its historical role in the world, as both a European and global leader.
One of the leading Brexit campaigners during last year's referendum, Johnson has been one of the government's main cheerleaders for the EU divorce, rejecting any criticism that Britain's economy could lose out.
"We have a clear plan for Brexit ... to get a good deal that works for both Britain and our European friends," he said.
"And though I have no doubt that the negotiations will be tough and some plaster may fall off the ceiling, I am also sure that Theresa May can pull it off, and usher in a new era of free trade deals."
While May was meeting EU officials to try to thaw the atmosphere before talks start in earnest, Johnson was focused on soothing business concerns.
In a nod to an election on June 8, Johnson also pressed the ruling Conservative Party's main campaign mantra - that Britain is safe under May's leadership and cannot trust Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour party, on security.
"There can be no more important task for a government than to keep people safe - and we must be prepared to do everything necessary to do so," he said.
"It is why the prime minister made it a priority when she took office last year to ensure the renewal of Britain's crucial independent nuclear deterrent and to lead the debate in parliament," he said.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Andrew Roche)