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Boris Johnson is BOOED as he leaves lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker

brexit countdown_bgCreated with Sketch.Boris Johnson's showdown trip to Luxembourg descended into chaos today as protests forced him to abandon a press conference and the leader of the tiny nation launched a savage attack on the PM in his absence.  Xavier Bettel tore into Mr Johnson and the 'nightmare' of Brexit after refusing to rearrange the press conference and brazenly going ahead with Mr Johnson's podium empty. Mocking the absent PM, Mr Bettel told Mr Johnson to 'stop speaking and act' and stop trying to 'make the EU the bad guy', accusing him of 'holding people hostage' for the sake of his political career. It prompted an immediate backlash from Tory Brexiteers but the bruising encounter overshadowed Mr Johnson's trip to Europe which has left him no closer to agreeing a deal before the October 31 deadline.  'Our people need to know what is going to happen to them in six weeks time. They need clarity, they need certainty and they need stability,' Mr Bettel said.'You can't hold their future hostage for party political gains,' he said to applause, adding: 'Time is ticking. We need more than just words.'Mr Bettel - who apparently told protesters earlier that they were 'welcome' - said the EU would not grant another Brexit extension 'without a good reason'.   Gesturing to the empty space where Mr Johnson should have been, Mr Bettel said: 'It's his responsibility. Your people, our people, count on you - but the clock is ticking, use your time wisely.'  Mr Johnson had been confronted by cat-calling British expats and protesters chanting 'Bog off Boris' after his lunchtime talks with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker today.  Speaking to UK reporters separately after the full-frontal attack from Mr Bettel, Mr Johnson said he knew he would have been 'drowned out' if he took part in the press conference outside.He denied a claim from Mr Juncker that there had not yet been any 'legally operational' proposals from the UK. 'Papers have been shared but we are now at the stage where we need to start accelerating that work,' he said. Mr Johnson said he still believed there was a 'good chance' of a deal, but it will 'require movement' from the EU.  Earlier, he underlined to Mr Juncker that he will not ask for a delay to the October 31 Brexit deadline - whether there was a deal or not. No10 sources also took a swipe at Mr Bettel by stating: 'We went to Luxembourg to see Juncker, not him.' And Tory Brexiteers vented fury, with one MP saying: 'We fund the EU to the tune of billions every year - not sure what Luxembourg’s contribution has been.' After the talks with Mr Bettel, Mr Johnson decided to only give a statement to a small group of journalists assembled at the nearby residence of the British ambassador, after dozens of demonstrators with a loud speaker heckled him from behind the gate. Luxembourg PM's extraordinary 'empty podium' rant at Boris Johnson    Xavier Bettel sparked an extraordinary public spat with Boris Johnson today after refusing to move a press conference away from protesters.The Luxembourg PM accused Mr Johnson of holding the future of UK and EU citizens 'hostage for party political gains'.Gesturing to the empty podium where Mr Johnson should have been, Mr Bettel said: 'Now it's on Mr Johnson - he holds the future of all UK citizens and every EU citizen living in the UK in his hands.'It's his responsibility. Your people, our people, count on you - but the clock is ticking, use your time wisely.'Mr Bettel, answering questions from reporters, said: 'For me I just have one Withdrawal Agreement on the table and it's the one from last year.'There are no changes. There are no concrete proposals for the moment on the table. And I won't give an agreement to ideas. We need written proposals and the time is ticking.'Mr Bettel told Mr Johnson to 'stop speaking and act', adding: 'But we won't accept any agreement that goes against a single market, who will be against the Good Friday Agreement.'He said: 'This Brexit it's not my choice.'It's been a decision from a party, a decision from David Cameron to do it. They decide, I deeply regret it but don't put the blame on us because now they don't know how to get out of this situation.'Mr Bettel said the EU side would not be responsible if the two sides were unable to reach agreement on a new Brexit deal.'Some people would love to give the blame to another and not be responsible for the situation,' he said.'Theresa May accepted the Withdrawal Agreement. So don't make it like the European Union is the bad guy not accepting decisions the UK proposes. They accepted them.'These are home-made problems. I won't accept any time to be responsible as a European leader... for, I am sorry, the mess we are in for the moment.'The PM denied that the UK's attempts at negotiations were a sham and said there is still 'hard work to be done' in securing a fresh deal. He said: 'Yes, we've got a good chance of a deal. Yes, I can see the shape of it. Everybody could see roughly what could be done. 'But it will require movement. And it will require the system in which the EU can control the UK after we leave - the so-called backstop - to go from that treaty. And that needs to happen. 'That's a big change that we need to get done. But if we can get that done, as I've said before, then we're at the races. 'I think we've got actually just the right amount of time to do a deal between now and October 17-18. But if we can't do it by then we will make sure we can come out on October 31 - deal or no deal.' But the Luxembourg PM accused Mr Johnson of holding the future of UK and EU citizens 'hostage for party political gains'.Mr Bettel said: 'Now it's on Mr Johnson - he holds the future of all UK citizens and every EU citizen living in the UK in his hands.'It's his responsibility. Your people, our people, count on you - but the clock is ticking, use your time wisely.'Mr Bettel, answering questions from reporters, said: 'For me I just have one Withdrawal Agreement on the table and it's the one from last year.'There are no changes. There are no concrete proposals for the moment on the table. And I won't give an agreement to ideas. We need written proposals and the time is ticking.'Mr Bettel told Mr Johnson to 'stop speaking and act', adding: 'But we won't accept any agreement that goes against a single market, who will be against the Good Friday Agreement.'He said: 'This Brexit it's not my choice.'It's been a decision from a party, a decision from David Cameron to do it. They decide, I deeply regret it but don't put the blame on us because now they don't know how to get out of this situation.'Mr Bettel said the EU side would not be responsible if the two sides were unable to reach agreement on a new Brexit deal.'Some people would love to give the blame to another and not be responsible for the situation,' he said.'Theresa May accepted the Withdrawal Agreement. So don't make it like the European Union is the bad guy not accepting decisions the UK proposes. They accepted them.'These are home-made problems. I won't accept any time to be responsible as a European leader... for, I am sorry, the mess we are in for the moment.'Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski said: 'Conduct of Luxembourg PM towards our Prime Minister today only accentuates the need for us to pull out of this artificial arrogant EU structure as quickly as possible.' Who is Xavier Bettel?Xavier Bettel has been the prime minister of Luxembourg since 2013. He has been a vocal critic of Brexit and the amount of time it has taken the UK to set out the terms on which it wants to leave the EU. Speaking in the run up to the original March 2019 Brexit deadline, he said: 'We don’t force the United Kingdom, you decided to leave, we shouldn’t exchange roles.'You want us to be the bad guy. You decided. You decided. You decided.'We have to just find a deal and we negotiated the deal, we found the best possible deal and we are not in a souk where we are going to bargain for the next five years.'The 46-year-old is married and in 2018 he became the first openly gay PM in the world to be re-elected for a second term in office. He previously served as the Mayor of Luxembourg City between November 2011 and December 2013. He then led the Democratic Party into Luxembourg's national elections in 2013, finishing third. However, he was invited to form the next government and became PM, leading a coalition of the Democratic Party, Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party and The Greens. The government remained a rainbow coalition after elections last year.   Nick Boles, an MP who left the Tories due to Mr Johnson's hardline Brexit stance, said: It was rude of Luxembourg’s PM not to move the press conference inside. Most voters will resent the slight... Leave voters’ antipathy to the EU will be inflamed.'But he added that voters would be 'unimpressed by Johnson’s failure to command respect or impose himself on events'. It was the PM's second bruising encounter of the day on his visit to Luxembourg, after a two-hour showdown with Mr Juncker over lunch - the first time they had met since he entered No10. According to a readout issued by the EU, Mr Juncker told Mr Johnson it was the 'UK's responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement'.He 'underlined the commission's continued willingness and openness to examine whether such proposals meet the objectives of the backstop', but added: 'Such proposals have not yet been made.' Downing Street said Mr Johnson 'reconfirmed his commitment to the Good Friday 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 the 31st October,' a spokeswoman said.'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'.Over the weekend, Mr Johnson likened the UK to the 'Incredible Hulk' breaking free of the 'manacles' of EU membership.  But the government has ramped up efforts to get a settlement with Brussels after Remainer MPs moved to hem in the government by ruling out No Deal, and blocking an election.The two leaders posed for the cameras as Mr Juncker - a former PM of Luxembourg - welcomed Mr Johnson for lunch Legislation passed by Parliament obliges the PM to seek an extension if an agreement is not struck by October 19 - the day after a make-or-break EU summit concludes. However, allies of the premier have been claiming there is a loophole in the rebel law that could allow the government to ignore it. In another frantic day of politics as Brexit tensions rise: * Mr Johnson's chances of getting a deal through Parliament if he can reach terms with the EU have been boosted after whips suggested they could whittle down a Tory rebellion to just eight 'Spartan' hardliners.  * Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg appeared to give Mr Johnson another chink of light by hinting that the EU would veto an extension if the UK cannot make up its mind.  * Remainers dismissed speculation that the PM could simply ignore a rebel law ruling out No Deal, saying unlike the Incredible Hulk that British government must obey the law.   * Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson faced a backlash after the party confirmed that it would revoke Article 50 without a second referendum if it wins power.  * Jacob Rees-Mogg ridiculed calls from a Lib Dem activist for him to be 'burned at the stake', joking that as Lord President of the Council he was entitled to 't ...Read more

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