Friday 18 October 2019

Boris Johnson's Brexit 'Incredible Hulk' comparison was 'infantile' - EU

Criticism: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet Jean-Claude Juncker today in Luxembourg. Photo: PA
Criticism: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet Jean-Claude Juncker today in Luxembourg. Photo: PA

Hugh O'Connell and Edd Dracott

Boris Johnson's comparison of Brexit Britain to the 'Incredible Hulk' drew criticism and derision yesterday as the prime minister prepared for a crucial meeting with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Mr Juncker will today ask Mr Johnson to spell out his ideas to replace the Irish backstop in Luxembourg as EU officials rejected claims from the UK government that substantial progress has been made in the Brexit talks in recent weeks.

Mr Johnson raised eyebrows after he told the 'Mail On Sunday' the UK will break out of the European Union's "manacles" like Bruce Banner, who transforms into the giant green Hulk when angered.

European Parliament's Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt described the prime minister's comparison as "infantile" even when compared with the rhetoric of US President Donald Trump.

"Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile," he tweeted. "Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed?

"Is this Boris Johnson whistling in the dark?"

'Incredible Hulk' actor Mark Ruffalo also questioned the comparison. "Boris Johnson forgets that the Hulk only fights for the good of the whole," the American tweeted.

"Mad and strong can also be dense and destructive."

In the same interview, Mr Johnson said there were "real signs of movement" in EU capitals on getting rid of the backstop. "I will be talking to Jean-Claude about how we're going to do it. I'm very confident," he said.

However, the Irish Government and EU position remains that detailed alternative arrangements have yet to be put forward by Mr Johnson's government.

The meeting with Mr Juncker comes 26 days after Mr Johnson met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and declared he had 30 days to persuade the EU he has a viable alternative to the backstop.

Mr Johnson's meeting with Mr Juncker also comes as DUP leader Arlene Foster is expected to meet business leaders in Dublin this week.

Ms Foster will be expected to clarify her party's position in the wake of reports it was prepared to soften its opposition to the backstop.

Ms Foster has been forced to counter reports that the DUP will accept a Northern Ireland-only backstop after Mr Johnson spoke about protecting "the economic unity on the island of Ireland" on a visit to Dublin a week ago.

She has insisted her party wants "a sensible deal but not one that divides the [UK's] internal market".

The DUP has sought talks with the Irish Government over Brexit in recent weeks, but the Government has insisted that negotiations must take place through the EU.

Last night, a spokesman for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he had no plans to meet Ms Foster while she is on her Dublin visit.

"The Government has indicated it is always willing to engage with all Northern parties if a request is made.

"Negotiations, though, take place through the EU," he added.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Liberal Democrats yesterday pledged to cancel Brexit if they took power after the next general election.

Irish Independent

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