Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel speaks to the press following talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, not pictured. (Joshua Sammer/Getty Images)
Amid booing protesters, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being slammed after leaving Luxembourg’s gay leader standing alone at a press conference today.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel lashed out at the British lawmaker for failing to pitch serious alternatives to unlock a route for the UK to depart the European Union on 31 October.
Moreover, Bettel jabbed Johnson for his attempts to blame the bloc for the “nightmare” of Brexit, with the image of him empty-chairing becoming a ready-made meme on Twitter.
Downing Street billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate a neat divorce from the union before an October 17 EU summit.
But Jonson received a frosty welcome from Luxembourg locals as he walked the cobblestone into the Luxembourg Ministry of State.
A large group of protesters outside the gates in a bear square, some wielding megaphones and placards while others played music.
Many of the less than hundred demonstrators jeered as Johnson shook hands with Bettel while entering the building for a meeting.
Some chanted “tell the truth, stop the coup” as the pair entered.
Johnson had only travelled a few hundred metres from an earlier meeting, but he soon quickly departed.
He cancelled a scheduled news conference because of the protesters.
Although, he said that “there’s been a lot of work” and “papers have been shared,” according to the BBC. A source later said that Number 10 said aides did request for the conference to be held inside, but this was rejected.
Johnson later said: “I don’t think it would’ve been fair to the prime minister of Luxembourg […] I think our points might’ve been drowned out [by the sound of the protesters].”
The result was the Luxembourg leader standing alone next to an empty podium, behind UK, EU and Luxembourg flags, and in front of a pen of bemused reporters.
Luxembourg PM: “Don’t put the blame on us.”
The leader of the smallest country in Europe then let rip into Johnson, empty-charging him as he stated that the chaos of Brexit negations “would not happen in Luxembourg.”
Moreover, he said that demonstrations are a right in a democracy and called for “certainty” from British lawmakers. Especially as the future of EU migrants living in Britain –including those from Luxembourg – remains unclear.
The premier then added: “Don’t put the blame on us because they don’t know how to get out of this situation. It is not my choice.”
As Johnson left and walked into the square, protesters shouted “Shame on you,” reported Reuters.
In come the memes.
The image of Bettel coyly standing alone, with a wry smile, gesturing towards the empty podium quickly became a template for ridicule online.
Especially as just last weekend, the British leader compared his Brexit approach to that of the Incredible Hulk. Within minutes, the hashtag #IncredibleSulk began to trend as well as a flurry of memes:
Nice empty podium you’ve got there, Boris. Sure would be embarrassing if you’d just spent the last few weeks calling your opposition a ‘spineless chicken’… pic.twitter.com/uYFJ7CSlpj
— Steph/en Paton ? (@stephenpaton134) September 16, 2019
Yesterday Boris Johnson compared the UK to the Incredible Hulk. Following discussions with the PM of Luxembourg – a country of 600,000 people – Johnson clearly wasn’t up to speaking to press. Instead, he turned into the Incredible Sulk and ran off with his tail between his legs. pic.twitter.com/CmdgucEija
— Marion Fellows MP (@marionfellows) September 16, 2019
me, and all the 2019 personal goals I have achieved so far pic.twitter.com/M3t8rVpgbr
— Zoe Paskett?️? (@ZoePaskett) September 16, 2019
Me, and my savings account: pic.twitter.com/BllbAbgMZh
— Hannah Al-Othman (@HannahAlOthman) September 16, 2019
“which coping mechanisms work when you’re feeling this way?” pic.twitter.com/yzFCgJpFne
— Hannah Jane Parkinson (@ladyhaja) September 16, 2019
Is a deal going to happen?
That’s the million dollar question.
Before leaving Bettel to ride solo, Johnson took time out of his busy schedule to pose on the balcony of the UK ambassador’s residence prior to a meeting between with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncke.
The British minister and the president met at Le Boquet Garni – Juncke’s favourite restaurant – dined over pollock, risotto, chanterelle mushrooms and fresh peas, before holding their two-hour-long Brexit summit.
This was the first in-person meeting between the British premier and president, but it was one that ended with no breakthrough in the fraught and cracked chats about how Britain can leave the EU.
Both had made clear their lines of attack in advance of the meeting, with an awareness that consensus is far off amid an ever-shortening time to strike a deal.
A Number 10 spokesperson said Johnson “reiterated that he would not request an extension” and would take the UK out of the EU on October 31.
While a spokesperson for the Commission leader said: “President Juncker underlined the Commission’s continued willingness and openness to examine whether such proposals meet the objectives of the backstop.
“Such proposals have not yet been made.”