(Bloomberg) -- Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg launched into a full-throttle attack on Boris Johnson’s government that drew cheers and claps from anti-Brexit protesters gathered nearby.
His voice rattling with emotion, the Luxembourgian leader described Brexit as a “nightmare.” Bettel has been among the most outspoken critics of the U.K. in the European Union, but his tone and how vocal he was in public stood out.
“Imagine you are a European citizen in London, and you don’t know what the future will look like,” he told reporters. He denounced the mess as the U.K.’s making -- “homemade problems” -- and said Johnson had told him there would not be a second referendum.
The pound extended losses as Bettel spoke, falling as much as 0.8%.
A planned joint news conference was delayed by almost an hour. Two podiums had been set up outside and the loud heckling by anti-Johnson protesters would have potentially embarrassed the U.K. prime minister.
About 100 demonstrators could be heard shouting “dirty liar” and “Hey Boris, leave our rights alone” as music blared.
In the end Johnson was seen leaving, and Bettel took center stage alone.
After Johnson declined to appear alongside Bettel, an official in his office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.K. had repeatedly asked for the event to moved inside -- but was told by the Luxembourg prime minister’s team that it wouldn’t be.
Speaking in a pooled television interview, Johnson said the press conference was canceled over fears “our points might have been drowned out.”
He also denied that the U.K.’s attempts to negotiate a new divorce deal are a sham, but acknowledged “this is a difficult moment.”
“It isn’t necessarily in the bag, there will be hard work to be done,” he said.
Meanwhile Better was asked at one point if Johnson would obey the law. If no agreement is reached at the next summit of EU leaders on Oct 17-18, Johnson has said he will leave the bloc without one -- in defiance of new legislation designed to force him to seek an extension to the deadline.
What did Bettel think about that?
Bettel’s response: “This would not happen in Luxembourg.”
(Updates with Johnson comment in ninth paragraph.)
To contact the reporters on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at firstname.lastname@example.org;Jonathan Stearns in Luxembourg at email@example.com
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