Many are crying foul over Xavier Bettel’s move, but others will see the empty podium moment as evidence of the PM running scared.
It wasn’t a good look. Two podiums intended for two leaders, but only one showed up.
And Luxembourg’s man made the most of it.
Xavier Bettel played to the cameras — at one point even gesturing to the empty spot beside him where the UK PM, who invoked the Incredible Hulk at the weekend, appeared to have suddenly gone awfully shy.
Boris Johnson had left — some will say scurried off — before the press conference started.
Was he afraid to face journalists, face the questions on a day when the verdict on the EU side was «Mr Johnson, you’ve failed miserably to come up with anything new»?
Of course not, the man himself insisted when he did eventually appear on camera away from the chants of anti-Brexit protesters.
His no-show, he claimed, was because he didn’t want his points or that of Prime Minister Bettel to be drowned out by the noisy crowd.
Number 10 sources claim they repeatedly asked for the press conference to be moved inside. Luxembourg said no.
Why so? Did Mr Bettel see an opportunity? He certainly got one.
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It was a one-man show. Mr Bettel was able to launch an uninterrupted assault on the UK side — to cheers from the crowd.
You’ve come up with nothing new, he said.
Don’t blame the EU for failure, he said. Brexit is not my choice, he said, sounding increasingly furious.
Mr Johnson was not there to challenge, to retort, to hit back or proffer a positive spin. The optics for the British were miserable.
We’re told Luxembourg had no room technically ready for a hastily rearranged press event, so had to stick with the outdoor plan.
Whether you buy that is likely to depend on which side of the Brexit battle you fall.
Many are already crying foul, insisting it was a stitch-up by an EU leader (Xavier Bettel will tomorrow go to Paris to meet with Emmanuel Macron, who has long played hard-ball on Brexit).
Others will see the empty podium moment as evidence of a UK PM running scared.
Hardly the end to the day Boris Johnson had wanted. He’d promised progress, that a deal could be done.
«The Incredible Hulk becomes the Incredible Sulk» is already doing the rounds.