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Leading article: Boris Johnson visit an exercise in humiliation

Protesters outside the Luxembourg Ministry of State in Luxembourg, prior to a meeting between Boris Johnson and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel

The EU's frustration with Boris Johnson was all too evident on Monday when the prime minister's visit to Luxembourg became an exercise in humiliation.

Mr Johnson was widely derided for abandoning a joint press conference with Luxembourg's prime minister Xavier Bettel.

Apparently the British side had asked for the event to be held indoors due to the noisy anti-Brexit protest outside but this request was turned down.

Mr Johnson was placed in a difficult position. Either he tried to make himself heard over hecklers or was accused of cowardice for failing to face the protesters.

Having decided to get offside, he ensured the abiding image of this chaotic visit was an empty lectern beside an exasperated Mr Bettel, who took the opportunity to criticise Mr Johnson, warning him that EU citizens were facing mounting uncertainty due to Brexit and should not be held hostage 'for party political gains.'

However, that was only one part of an unfortunate day for the British PM who had earlier had lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker.

Ahead of the visit, Mr Johnson had been speaking in optimistic terms about the possibility of a deal and talked up the discussions taking place to address the backstop impasse.

In this regard there have been suggestions that the DUP is shifting its red lines, with Jeffrey Donaldson signalling on RTE that there could be regulatory alignment with the EU in relation to animals and food.

If there is some movement it would have to be carefully considered but there was no sense of a breakthrough following Mr Johnson's meeting with Mr Juncker.

The European Commission pointedly said that it is the UK's responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions, adding 'but such proposals have not yet been made.'

EU leaders are entitled to feel dismay at how Mr Johnson is handling this crisis, which has been inflicted on them by the UK.

After tortuous negotiations they had managed to reach agreement with Theresa May, who was unable to get it through parliament.

Boris Johnson, the Brexiteers' champion, has now suspended parliament, a controversial move declared unlawful by Scottish judges and which is now before the Supreme Court in London.

No one can predict how all this will play out, or even what will happen next.

But Mr Johnson's performance to date will not inspire confidence.

Ian Knox cartoon 18/9/19 





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