latest nonsense from boris johnson

Luxembourg PM holds press conference without Boris Johnson after protesters threaten to disrupt it
Andrew Sparrow, Groon, Sep 16 2019

Boris Johnson and Xavier Bettel have just left the PM’s office. Bettel is speaking to the press alone. He says demonstrating is a right in a democracy. He says he wants to thank Boris Johnson. It was important to listen to Johnson, and to hear concrete proposals from him.

Luxembourg PM’s press conference – Snap verdict
Andrew Sparrow, Groon, Sep 16 2019

That was extraordinary. Boris Johnson, the British PM, has just been humiliated by the leader of almost the smallest country in the EU. We were expecting a joint, open-air press conference but with a large crowd of anti-Brexit campaigners threatening to drown out Johnson, it was announced that the British PM was not going to take part (presumably because of the demonstration, although that has not officially been confirmed yet). Normally in these circumstances the polite thing to do is to rearrange. But instead Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, went ahead anyway, effectively “empty chairing” his guest. At one point he even gestured at the space where Johnson was supposed to be. Then Bettel just let rip. People often wonder what EU leaders say or think about Johnson in private. Now we know. The leave campaign was a pack of lies, Johnson’s talk of progress in the Brexit negotiations is unfounded, the UK still has not come up with any ideas about an alternative to the backstop. On and on he went, with particular emphasis on the point that the UK, not the EU, was to blame for the crisis. It was a “nightmare” for EU citizens, said Bettel. At several points he was loudly applauded by the protesters, because they felt he was articulating their anger. Yesterday, Johnson depicted himself as the Incredible Hulk. As the Telegraph’s Michael Deacon suggests, the reality could not be more different.

Bettel says one party decided to organise the referendum. He says there was no clear information campaign in the UK explaining what Brexit would mean. He says Brexit was not the EU’s decision. And he says Theresa May accepted the withdrawal agreement. These are “homemade problems,” he says. He says he will not accept that EU leaders, or the European commission, are to blame for what happened. And that’s it. The protesters cheer as Bettel leaves.

Johnson humiliated by Luxembourg PM at ’empty chair’ press conference
Daniel Boffey, Groon, Sep 16 2019

Boris Johnson has been left humiliated after being forced by anti-Brexit protesters to cancel an appearance at a press conference, leaving Luxembourg’s prime minister to lecture and gesticulate at an empty podium about the dangers of the UK prime minister playing politics with people’s lives. Johnson was booed and jeered as he left a working lunch in Luxembourg with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, before being forced to abandon plans to speak alongside the country’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel. The cancellation left Johnson scuttling past the waiting lecterns in a courtyard outside the prime minister’s office to chants by British protesters a few metres away. Bettel did not mince his words as he took the lectern next to the one left empty by the British prime minister’s no-show, with the union flag still in position. He mocked the varying suggestions in recent weeks from Johnson that there had been good progress in the Brexit talks and that it would take the strength of the comic hero, the Incredible Hulk, to leave the EU with a deal. Bettel said:

I asked also Mr Johnson: I read in the papers a few days ago that it goes from big progress to Hulk to David Cameron proposing a second Brexit. And Mr Johnson said there won’t be a second referendum, because I asked him: wouldn’t that be a solution to get out of the situation?

Bettel said the UK government needed to lay out on paper an alternative to the Irish backstop, and appeared to suggest that party political considerations might be standing in the way. The prime minister’s day in Luxembourg was supposed to have been a key moment for him to illustrate that the the Brexit talks were moving towards a deal, with Downing Street briefing after the meeting with Juncker that the negotiations in Brussels would move from being bi-weekly to daily. But the anger from Britons living in Luxembourg and the exasperation of the EU leaders spilled over as Johnson moved between meetings. EU officials have long believed that Johnson is unlikely to table any ideas until after Conservative party conference in two weeks, but they fear that this will not allow enough time for a deal to be struck. Bettel said the EU wanted a deal and that it would be loth to simply delay Brexit without a purpose, but that Downing Street had failed to show a way through the crisis. He said:

I know the UK parliament is unhappy with the withdrawal agreement as it stands. That is why I thought that was important to speak to Boris Johnson to get proposals. We need more than just words. We need a legally operable text to work on as soon as possible, if we want to meet the October deadline.

The protests outside the offices of Luxembourg’s prime minister were organised by David Pike, a classical baritone singer with joint Canadian, British and Luxemburger nationality, who led noisy singing and chanting to the EU’s anthem Ode to Joy. He said:

We are British and quite often dual nationals. I’m not a protester. I have been on a protest. These people don’t go on protest, they are professionals, boring people. People who are concerned about this catastrophe. When Mr Bettel spoke I asked the crowd to be quiet and they were. These are a bunch of professional people who know something about government. They would have been respectful and given him, maybe, a point of view at the end of it. This was about delivering our message, not milkshake stuff.

An official in the Luxembourg government official said that they had to decline Downing Street’s request for the press conference to be inside as there was not a room large enough for the media. the official said:

We tried to change it, but on such short notice we had to work with what we had. It really wasn’t our intention to embarrass Mr Johnson.

The Telegraph’s James Crisp was outside the restaurant

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