Monday 21 October 2019

'Humiliation', 'ambush'... How the British papers reacted to Boris Johnson's absence from Luxembourg press conference

No show: Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel goes ahead with a press conference yesterday despite Boris Johnson not joining him. Photo: Reuters
No show: Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel goes ahead with a press conference yesterday despite Boris Johnson not joining him. Photo: Reuters

Alexander Britton

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's trip to the continent made headlines in today's papers with some calling it a "humiliation" and others an "ambush".

Mr Johnson travelled to Luxembourg for his first face-to-face meeting with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker since entering Downing Street.

But it was an afternoon press conference - where Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel continued despite Mr Johnson pulling out of a speech due to the noise of protesters - which has become one of the main talking points.

The Daily Mail leads with the headline Le Stitch Up, referring to Mr Bettel's actions as a "calculated diplomatic snub".

The paper's leader column adds that Brussels is "playing with fire" if it wills Mr Johnson to fail.

The column says: "The Prime Minister came in peace - to begin negotiations over risotto for an eleventh-hour Brexit deal with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker greets British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Francisco Seco - Pool/Getty Images
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker greets British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Francisco Seco - Pool/Getty Images

"Instead, he found himself served up as the dish in a media stunt designed to publicly humiliate him.

"The Prime Minister must keep his calm and remain focused on a deal. In doing so, he forces his opponents to show their true colours. Whatever happens, he must not be the cause of failure."

"No wonder Britain voted to quit the EU" runs the headline in the Daily Express, while the Daily Telegraph says Mr Johnson walked into an "ambush".

READ MORE: Boris Johnson pulls out of press conference amid heckling as EU pledges solidarity with Ireland

Their leader, similar to that of the Mail, questions whether the EU is serious about wanting a deal with Mr Johnson's UK.

"His working lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier was an opportunity to reset the negotiations and put them on course for an agreement by October 31," it says.

"Instead, there was a deliberate attempt to humiliate the British Prime Minister by staging a press conference from which he was absent.

"The 'empty lectern' approach adopted by Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg's prime minister, was hardly a friendly or constructive act."

The Sun refers to the EU's "snakes", saying that "decency and courtesy" should have seen the press conference moved inside, while the Daily Mirror calls Mr Johnson a "hulking great mess", with its leader saying "Boris Johnson is not the Incredible Hulk, he's the Incompetent Sulk".

"If he can't take the heat, he should get out of the kitchen. This is a moment in history when a statesman is needed, not this big baby," it adds.

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