Boris Johnson 'empty chaired' after cancelling Brexit press conference

16 September 2019, 15:34 | Updated: 16 September 2019, 16:03

Boris Johnson was 'empty chaired' after cancelling a press conference about Brexit
Boris Johnson was 'empty chaired' after cancelling a press conference about Brexit. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson was ‘empty-chaired’ at press conference in Luxembourg by the country's prime minister as protesters booed him over his Brexit plans.

Anti-Brexit protesters cheered as Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel challenged Mr Johnson over his failure to solve the issue of the Irish border.

Boris Johnson met for lunchtime talks with Jean-Claude Juncker
Boris Johnson met for lunchtime talks with Jean-Claude Juncker. Picture: PA

Mr Johnson cancelled the press conference amid a barrage of boos, but was humiliated by Mr Bettel who left an empty podium next to him where Mr Johnson should have stood.

Mr Johnson’s motorcade was also barracked with a hail of boos from protesters who had gathered outside as he met for a lunch with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker where they discussed Brexit.

Following Brexit talks with Jean-Claude Juncker Mr Johnson said "we've got a good chance of a deal" but "it will require movement" from the European Union side.

Anti-Brexit protesters gathered outside the meeting in Luxembourg
Anti-Brexit protesters gathered outside the meeting in Luxembourg. Picture: PA

Mr Bettel said: “'Time is ticking,' he said. 'We need more than just words.”

Mr Bettel said the EU would not grant another Brexit extension “without a good reason”

“Our citizens want to have certainty,” he added. 

Boris Johnson said there was a 'good chance' of a Brexit deal after his meeting with Juncker
Boris Johnson said there was a 'good chance' of a Brexit deal after his meeting with Juncker. Picture: PA

Brussels stepped up its demands for Boris Johnson to set out his plan for a Brexit deal following the talks.

Mr Johnson and the European Commission president sat down for their first face-to-face talks in a restaurant where they ate snails and cheese.

But while Mr Juncker said the talks were "friendly" and negotiations will proceed "at high speed", there was little public sign of a breakthrough.

The commission said the Government had still not made "legally operational solutions" to replace the controversial Irish backstop element of the Brexit divorce deal, which keeps the UK closely tied to EU rules in order to avoid a hard border.

A European Commission statement released following the working lunch at Luxembourg City's Le Bouquet Garni restaurant said: "President Juncker recalled that it is the UK's responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement.

"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."

Both Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay and the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier were at the lunchtime meeting with the Prime Minister and commission president.

Downing Street said the meeting was "constructive" and contact between the two sides would be stepped up.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The Prime Minister reconfirmed his commitment to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and his determination to reach a deal with the backstop removed, that UK parliamentarians could support.

"The Prime Minister also reiterated that he would not request an extension and would take the UK out of the EU on October 31.

"The leaders agreed that the discussions needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis.

"It was agreed that talks should also take place at a political level between Michel Barnier and the Brexit Secretary, and conversations would also continue between president Juncker and the Prime Minister."

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