LUXEMBOURG’S PM was last night accused of “a deliberately provocative” attempt to humiliate Boris Johnson by hauling him in front of an angry mob.
An extraordinary diplomatic row exploded after Brexit talks between the two leaders collapsed in bitterness.
Xavier Bettel was accused of egging on the mob as he stood by the empty lectern[/caption]
Boris Johnson insisted again that we will leave on October 31 in a chat with the BBC[/caption]
A crowd of Remainer protesters gathered at the railings outside the office of the tiny European state’s head and bombarded the British PM with boos on his arrival.
Mr Johnson then asked Xavier Bettel to hold their post-talks press conference inside, after No10 aides said the yelling was so loud it would have drowned out the pair.
But Mr Bettel repeatedly refused, claiming he did not have a room big enough and that it would have to go ahead in the courtyard.
When Boris pulled out, Mr Bettel went ahead and stood beside an empty lectern. He was also accused of egging on the mob — made up largely of British and American expats working in Luxembourg.
Before Boris’s arrival, Mr Bettel walked up to the railings and told the crowd: “You are welcome here — that’s democracy.”
The events infuriated Downing Street, with one of the PM’s senior staff dubbing Mr Bettel “a clown”.
But diplomats were glum, saying the furore made it even harder for both sides to strike a deal.
Also on another tense day in the Brexit countdown to October 31:
- EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker agreed to Boris’s plea for negotiators to meet daily, but he also lambasted the PM for failing to present his full plan.
- Mr Johnson slapped down his Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay to insist the post-departure transition period will end on time on December 31 next year.
- Mr Bettel warned Boris not to hold the future of UK and EU citizens “hostage” by pursuing No Deal “for party political gains”.
The Luxembourg leader also attacked Mr Johnson for not producing detailed plans to replace the Irish backstop, telling him: “Time is ticking. Stop speaking, act.”
Mr Johnson tried to laugh off the row saying of the press conference: “I don’t think it would’ve been fair to the Prime Minister of Luxembourg. There was clearly going to be a lot of noise, and our points might’ve been drowned out.”
The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg agreed, tweeting it would have been “total pandemonium” had the event gone ahead.
Leading Brexiteer Tory MEP Dan Hannan fumed: “The Luxembourg PM chose to go ahead with what was, in effect, an anti-Brexit rally.
“Petty but calculated gestures of this kind pushed Britain into wanting to leave in the first place.”
Even Tory rebels came to Mr Johnson’s defence. Veteran MP Sir Nicholas Soames, who was expelled from the party two weeks ago, dubbed it “very poor behaviour” and added Boris was “quite right not to be made a fool of”.
Mr Johnson insisted on remaining upbeat, telling the BBC his Brexit team have “moved a long way”. He also said he was “a little more optimistic” than when he left No10 yesterday morning — “but not much”. He went on: “There’s a deal there to be done.
“But clearly if we can’t get movement from them on that crucial issue of whether the EU can continue to control the UK, we won’t be able to get that through the Commons. No way. And we’ll have an exit with no deal on October 31.”
Before seeing Mr Bettel, Boris had lunch with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who took him to his favourite restaurant, Le Bouquet Garni.
The EU chief agreed to daily talks between his senior officials and the PM’s top Europe adviser David Frost.
But Mr Juncker also lambasted Boris by telling him it was “the UK’s responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions” to replace the Irish backstop.
An EU source added: “We can’t meet every day if there isn’t any substance”. But No10 sources said Mr Johnson will not put his plan on the table yet as the EU will “just trash it and ask for another one”.
Lux… it sucks
- LUXEMBOURG is one of Europe’s richest nations, but in 2017 the EU gave it £1.62billion, while it contributed just £271million.
- It is a tax haven for businesses like Amazon.
- Their football team has failed to qualify for every World Cup since 1934.
- It is regularly voted Europe’s most boring country.
- It’s most famous person is Jean-Claude Juncker.
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No10 also slapped down the Brexit Secretary after he suggested the post-Brexit transition period could be extended into 2022.
Steve Barclay said the extra time was needed to implement new “alternative arrangements” for a customs system on the Irish border.
But Mr Johnson’s spokesman insisted: “The PM will not ask for an extension to the implementation period.”
The Luxembourg leader attacked Mr Johnson for not producing detailed plans to replace the Irish backstop[/caption]
No10 aides said the yelling from protesters was so loud it would have drowned out the press conference[/caption]
Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker shook hands on daily negotiations over lunch[/caption]
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