Boris Johnson has joked a traditional Maori welcome he received in New Zealand could start a fight if the gesture was attempted in Glasgow.
The Foreign Secretary took part in a “hongi” greeting in which the host and his guest go forehead-to-forehead as they touch noses, in what he suggested was very close to a head-butt.
“I think it’s a beautiful form of introduction,” said Mr Johnson. “Though it might be misinterpreted in a pub in Glasgow if you were to try it.”
In a compliment to Prime Minister Theresa May, the Foreign Secretary also suggested that the “marae” community groups in which some Maoris live have something in common with the UK - “a tradition of strong female leadership, which we also have”.
Mr Johnson is on a two-day trip to New Zealand designed to strengthen ties with the Commonwealth state as the UK seeks new trading links after Brexit.
He visited the South Island town of Kaikoura, where local Maori people helped British tourists affected by an earthquake last year.
The Foreign Secretary is on the latest leg of a nine-day international tour that will see him head to Australia next.
Both countries are viewed as key allies by the Government and Mr Johnson is “keen to see deals taking shape”, according to Government sources.
Working groups have been set up to thrash out the details of future deals with each nation, and the progress made so far will be set out during the visits.
Mr Johnson is meeting Bill English, New Zealand’s prime minister, and the country’s foreign minister Gerry Brownlee, before flying to Australia for talks with counterpart Julie Bishop.
It follows a three-day trip to Japan that left Mr Johnson predicting the UK was poised for an “all-singing, all-dancing” post-Brexit free trade deal with the nation.
As part of the trip, Mr Johnson was unveiling a new UK war memorial in Pukeahu and laid a wreath to commemorate the shared sacrifice of the armed forces of both countries.
He said: “Britain and New Zealand share a long standing and historic friendship so I’m delighted to be here to see for myself how we work together on so many issues and how we can build on these links.”