Boris Johnson mocked for dodging EU press conference at last minute amid loud protests

Boris Johnson was accused of bottling a Brexit press conference today after failing to appear at a joint statement with Luxembourg's prime minister due to noisy protests.

—Boris Johnson meets EU leaders in Luxembourg for latest Brexit talks

—Frustrated EU says Johnson has yet to offer any ‘legally operational solutions’ for a deal

—British PM then dodges press conference amid loud protests

—Luxembourg PM gives solo press conference with empty podium

—He says EU needs ‘more than just words’ to secure deal and accuses Leave campaign of lying

—Johnson greeted by chants of “bog off, Boris” from demonstrators

—Downing Street insists UK will pull out of the bloc by October 31

Boris Johnson was accused of bottling a Brexit press conference today after failing to appear alongside Luxembourg's prime minister due to noisy protests.

In a pointed gesture, Xavier Bettel delivered the press conference by himself with an empty podium where Mr Johnson was scheduled to have joined him, telling the absent British PM: “You can’t hold a future hostage for party-political gains.”

Mr Johnson had earlier been booed by crowds as he walked up to meet Mr Bettel with a handshake following before heading into the Ministry of State in Luxembourg City for discussions.

Demonstrators screamed “Stop the coup, tell the truth” and “Bog off, Boris”.

Mr Johnson walked out afterwards without doing his promised appearance in front of the media.

Luxembourg’s prime minister next to the podium where Boris Johnson was to have joined him.
Protesters outside the Ministry of State in Luxembourg, prior to the meeting between prime ministers Boris Johnson and Xavier Bettel. (PA)

Two lecterns had been set up on the ministry’s grounds where the media was waiting to hear the pair speak after their meeting, which followed the British Prime Minister’s lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker.

But Mr Johnson decided instead only to give a statement to a small group of journalists assembled at the nearby residence of the British ambassador, after dozens of demonstrators with a loudspeaker heckled him from behind the gate.

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted: “A source says No 10 asked for press conference inside so that the two leaders could be heard over the small but very noisy protest, but request was rejected and insisted on having it outside with the 2 podiums.”

Boris Johnson recorded a clip for broadcasters in which he said the UK and EU have “just right amount of time” to get deal done by end of October.

Meanwhile, Mr Bettel, speaking next to an empty podium at his now solo press conference, said the “clock is ticking” and told Mr Johnson: “Stop speaking and act.”

Boris Johnson arriving for his meeting with Xavier Bettel at the Ministry of State in Luxembourg. (PA)

“Demonstrating is a right in democracy and it is also important to be able to exchange and listen to each other.”

Asked about Mr Johnson’s openness to breaking the law to deliver Brexit, he added that such a move from the government “wouldn’t happen in Luxembourg”.

“That’s why I thought it was important to speak to Prime Minister Johnson to get proposals [for a Brexit deal],” he said.

“We need more than just words.”

Mr Bettel also accused the Leave campaign, of which Mr Johnson was one of the most well-known figureheads, of lying during the Brexit referendum campaign.

“I remember that, before Brexit, people said to some voters that they will get money back for social insurances, that Brexit would be done in 24 hours and everything would be good,” he said.

“There were a lot of things before the referendum that no one was able to say: ‘Sorry, this is a lie.’”

There needed to be a legally operational text to work on “as soon as possible” if the October 31 deadline was to be met, Mr Bettel added.