'We saved Luxembourg in the war!' Iain Duncan Smith leads Brexiteer attack on 'rude' Xavier Bettel over extraordinary snub to Boris Johnson

  • Furious backlash at Xavier Bettel after extraordinary clash with Boris Johnson 
  • Mr Johnson's trip to Luxembourg for Brexit talks descended into a shambles 
  • Host Mr Bettel refused to move a press conference away from noisy protests
  • He then ranted about Brexit next to an empty podium when the PM shunned it
  • The calculated insult caused fury among Tories from Remain and Brexit wings  

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Brexiteers today stepped up their attacks on Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel in the wake of his extraordinary snub to Boris Johnson.

Tories led by Iain Duncan Smith raged that Mr Bettel had forgotten that Britain 'saved' the tiny nation after it was occupied by the Nazis in the Second World War.  

The backlash came after Boris Johnson's trip to Luxembourg for Brexit talks was overshadowed by a calculated insult from his host.

Mr Bettel - whose country has a population of just 600,000 and an economy half the size of the NHS budget - first refused to move a joint press conference with Mr Johnson indoors to prevent the British PM being 'drowned out' a small but noisy protest.

Instead he continued with the media call solo, delivering a furious anti-Brexit rant against the backdrop of a Union flag, while gesturing at the empty podium set up for Mr Johnson.

Luxembourg was invaded by the Nazis in May 1940 and subjected to a programme of 'Germanisation' before it was finally liberated by the Allies in September 1944. 

Boris Johnson's to Luxembourg for Brexit talks yesterday was overshadowed by a calculated insult from his host Xavier Bettel (picture right)

Boris Johnson's to Luxembourg for Brexit talks yesterday was overshadowed by a calculated insult from his host Xavier Bettel (picture right)

In a brutal assault Mr Bettel said the 'clock is ticking' to get a deal and insisted: 'We need more than just words'

After refusing to move a press conference away from noisy protests, Mr Bettel delivered a furious anti-Brexit rant against the backdrop of a Union flag, while gesturing at the empty podium set up for Mr Johnson (pictured)

Boris Johnson
Andrea Leadsom

Boris Johnson (left) gathered ministers including Andrea Leadsom (right) to update them on the Brexit wrangling today

International Development Secretary Alok Sharma and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick were also at No10 for the update from Mr Johnson

International Development Secretary Alok Sharma and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick were also at No10 for the update from Mr Johnson 

Mr Bettel branded Brexit a 'nightmare' and warned the 'clock is ticking' for Mr Johnson to bring forward new proposals - saying the EU would not be to 'blame' if the UK ended up crashing out without an agreement.

What happened to Luxembourg in the Second World War?

Luxembourg was invaded by Nazi Germany in May 1940 even though it was officially designated as neutral country, with Britain playing a key role in its liberation.

Initially after it was invaded it was put under the control of a military administration before it was eventually annexed and made a formal part of Germany.

The Nazis tried to portray Luxembourg as a natural part of the Third Reich and used propaganda and terror to try to 'Germanise' the population. 

The 'Germanisation' of Luxembourg involved trying to get rid of all French influence over the country and the Nazis banned the French language and made German the official language. Wearing a beret was also outlawed.

Luxembourg was liberated by the Allies in September 1944 but while the capital city remained in their control they had to fight off a counter attack from the Nazis in the north of the country in the December.

The man put in charge of Luxembourg by the Nazis, Gustav Simon, was captured and taken to a British Army prison in central Germany where he is believed to have committed suicide.

The PM attempted to make light of the row, saying it would not have been 'fair' to Mr Bettel to continue with the joint event as 'there was clearly going to be a lot of noise and our points would have been drowned out'.

He gathered his Cabinet today to update them on progress in the wrangling with the EU, which also included a crucial lunch meeting with commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg. The two men agreed to step up talks to a daily basis, and Mr Juncker described them as 'negotiations' for the first time. 

The PM told ministers that he 'continues to believe there is a deal to be done with the EU but at the same time no-deal planning must also continue at pace, including through the ongoing Get Ready public information campaign', Downing Street said. 

The incident with Mr Bettel did not come up. 

Mr Johnson also spoke to Mrs Merkel today, but they did not discussion Mr Bettel. 

According to No10, the PM 'reiterated that the UK and the EU have agreed to accelerate efforts to reach a deal without the backstop which the UK parliament could support, and that we would work with energy and determination to achieve this ahead of Brexit on October 31.'

In a hint that he might regret his actions, Mr Bettel tweeted after the clash with Mr Johnson that Luxembourg would 'remain the UK's partner and friend'. He posted photos of himself greeting Mr Johnson, but not pictures of the empty podium. 

A key ally of Mrs Merkel warned that the 'public venting' by Mr Bettel had backfired.

Senior German MP Norbert Rottgen tweeted: 'Xavier #Bettel's speech yesterday did not serve the #European cause. 

French president Emmanuel Macron (right)  hugged and patted Xavier Bettel (left) as he welcomed him to the Elysee Palace in Paris this morning

French president Emmanuel Macron (right)  hugged and patted Xavier Bettel (left) as he welcomed him to the Elysee Palace in Paris this morning

'His public venting ignored that a #deal is still in everyone's interest. 

Tax haven that is one of the EU's smallest members 

Luxembourg is the world's last Grand Duchy - the title historically given to small independent kingdoms in Europe. 

The current ruler is Grand Duke Henri. 

The country's gross domestic product in 2017 was £50billion - impressive given a population of 600,000. 

However, its economy represents less than half the budget of the NHS, which was £129 billion in 2018/19. 

The state is heavily reliant on the financial services industry, and has been dogged by criticism that it is used as a tax haven.  

Perhaps its most famous export is Jean-Claude Juncker, who was was installed as the president of the European Commission in 2014. 

Before that he was the prime minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013 - the longest serving head of any national government in the EU.   

'Even without a deal there will be a post-#Brexit life, which means that right now everyone needs to behave in a way that avoids animosity.' 

Tory MPs from both Remain and Brexit wings voiced anger at the Mr Johnson's treatment.

Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith said leaders had a duty to show 'courtesy and civility', and pointed out that Luxembourg was liberated from German occupation by Allied forces.

'The irony is that Luxembourg was saved by Britain. National leaders should always treat one another with courtesy and civility. Good ones do,' he told the Telegraph. 

Former Brexit minister David Jones said: 'If Remain supporters are revelling in this gratuitous rudeness to a British Prime Minister, they should examine their own motives. 

'Most patriotic people would say it's another good reason to leave on October 31.' 

Sir Nicholas Soames, who was expelled from the Tories for rebelling over the law against No Deal, accused Mr Bettel of 'unhelpful grandstanding'.

'Very poor behaviour by Luxembourg. Boris Johnson quite right not to be made a fool of.' 

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: '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.  

Mr Bettel told Mr Johnson that protesters, who heckled the British PM as he arrived at the meeting, would be 'respectful' during the press conference.

Officials said Mr Bettel had also refused a request to remove Mr Johnson's lectern and Union flag before starting the press conference, leaving it to look like the British PM had simply refused to turn up. One Government source said: 'Friends don't behave like this.'

Another pointed out that Mr Johnson only agreed to see Mr Bettel as a 'courtesy' after European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker asked to move a planned meeting from Brussels to Luxembourg. 'It was a stitch-up,' the source said. 'But let's see what other EU leaders make of this behaviour.' 

The row threatened to overshadow talks between Mr Johnson and Mr Juncker in a Luxembourg restaurant.

But a senior Government source last night issued a downbeat assessment of the prospects for a deal following those talks.

'It's clear Brussels is not yet ready to find the compromises required for a deal so No Deal remains a real possibility – as the gap we need to bridge remains quite large,' they said. 

Senior German MP Norbert Rottgen tweeted: 'Xavier #Bettel’s speech yesterday did not serve the #European cause.'

Senior German MP Norbert Rottgen tweeted: 'Xavier #Bettel's speech yesterday did not serve the #European cause.'

Mr Juncker and Mr Johnson held a two-hour working lunch in fine-dining restaurant Le Bouquet Garni, just five-minutes from the Ministry of State, where the Prime Minister met Mr Bettel and where the joint press conference was due to take place.

The 18th-century dining spot is located in the heart of medieval Luxembourg and the menu was changed at the 11th-hour for the pair.

What happens next in the Brexit crisis? 

Here is how the coming weeks could pan out: 

Today: Supreme Court hears case on whether prorogation of Parliament was illegal. 

September 21-25: Labour conference in Brighton, PM at UN summit in New York. 

September 29-October 2: Tory conference takes place in Manchester, with Mr Johnson giving his first keynote speech as leader on the final day. This will be a crucial waypointer on how Brexit talks are going.

October 14: Unless it has already been recalled following the court battle, Parliament is due to return with the Queen's Speech - the day before Mr Johnson had hoped to hold a snap election.

October 17-18: A crunch EU summit in Brussels, where Mr Johnson has vowed he will try to get a Brexit deal despite Remainers 'wrecking' his negotiating position. 

October 19: If there is no Brexit deal by this date Remainer legislation obliges the PM to beg the EU for an extension to avoid No Deal.

October 21: Decisive votes on the Queen's Speech, which could pave the way for a confidence vote. 

October 31: The current deadline for the UK to leave the EU. 

November/December: An election looks inevitable, but Labour is hinting it might push the date back towards Christmas to humiliate the PM. 

They were originally supposed to eat snails, salmon and cheese, but instead feasted on pan-cooked chicken oysters, butter-roasted pollock with creamy risotto, then red and black berries, iced marshmallow and basil sorbet.

After the two-hour lunch – the first face-to-face meeting since Mr Johnson became PM – Mr Juncker told reporters it was a 'friendly meeting', adding: 'Negotiations will continue at high speed.'

Privately, officials said the UK was unlikely to publish formal proposals ahead of the Conservative Party conference at the end of this month, when Mr Johnson will be anxious to avoid giving the impression he is considering further compromise. 

Sources pointed to the long history of the EU leaking British proposals in order to discredit them.

Mr Johnson yesterday acknowledged the EU was 'still officially sticking on their position that the backstop has got to be there.' In an interview with the BBC, he said a deal was only possible if there is 'movement from them on that crucial issue'.

And he suggested a key part of his plan is ensuring that Northern Ireland has a democratic lock on any move to keep it tied more closely to the EU than the rest of the UK.

Mr Johnson warned that failure to resolve the backstop would mean 'we'll have an exit with No Deal on October 31', adding: 'That's not what I want. It's not what they want. And we're going to work very hard to avoid it. But that's the reality.'

A Luxembourg government official acknowledged that the UK had asked to switch yesterday's press conference indoors because of 'concern about noise levels'. 

But the source said there 'wasn't enough room' indoors to accommodate all the journalists who had attended the event. 

 

Meet the country that thinks it can push Britain around on Brexit: Luxembourg is a notorious tax haven with an economy HALF the size of the NHS budget and was saved by the Allies from Nazi 'Germanisation'

Luxembourg put itself at the heart of the Brexit battle yesterday after Xavier Bettel, the country's prime minister, was accused of 'stitching up' Boris Johnson

Mr Bettel refused to move a press conference with the British PM indoors to prevent Mr Johnson being 'drowned out' by a noisy anti-Brexit protest. 

He then proceeded to address the media on his own as he gestured at the empty podium next to him and delivered a furious anti-Brexit rant. 

The way in which Luxembourg treated Mr Johnson sparked widespread criticism in the UK with even the PM's critics rebuking Mr Bettel. 

The PM's disastrous trip to Luxembourg has thrust the country into the world spotlight. Here's everything you need to know about it. 

A controversial tax haven that saves big business and the mega-rich millions

A major investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2014 showed that Luxembourg was being used as a tax haven. The scandal became known as 'Lux Leaks'. 

An analysis of almost 28,000 pages of leaked financial documents showed the government of Luxembourg had granted beneficial tax deals to a number of large corporations. 

The documents showed more than 300 companies such as Burberry, Heinz, Dyson, Pepsi, IKEA and Deutsche Bank were among those to channel funds through the tiny European nation using complex financial structures.

The deals - which were legal - allowed companies to pay less tax on money they moved to Luxembourg with the transactions also remaining secret. 

Jean-Claude Juncker came under fierce scrutiny when the story first broke because he was in charge of the country when many companies were taking advantage of the tax avoidance schemes. 

The president of the European Commission earlier this year reportedly described his initial response to the ICIJ investigation as a 'major mistake' because he 'took too much time to respond' to it.

'I should have responded immediately,' Mr Juncker reportedly said in May. 

Luxembourg's economy is less than HALF the size of the NHS budget 

Luxembourg's gross domestic product in 2017 was about £50 billion - a fairly staggering amount given the fact the country has a population of approximately 600,000. 

So while it is only the 164th biggest country by population, it is well inside the top 100 countries in the world when it comes to the size of its economy. 

However, its economy represents less than half of the budget of the NHS. Total health spending in the UK stood at approximately £129 billion in 2018/19.  

In contrast, the United Kingdom's gross domestic product in 2017 was more than £2 trillion.  

That puts the UK inside the top 10 economies in the world. The UK's population of just over 67 million people puts Britain in the top 30 countries by population size.

Its most famous export is... Jean-Claude Juncker 

Mr Juncker was elevated to the world stage in 2014 when he was installed as the president of the European Commission. 

Before that he was the prime minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013 - an 18 year term which made him the longest serving head of any national government in the EU.   

His time as the top bureaucrat in Brussels has been anything but straight forward and he has shown something of a penchant for putting himself at the centre of political firestorms. 

In 2015 he sparked controversy when he welcomed Hungarian leader Viktor Orban to Brussels by saying 'the dictator is coming' before shaking hands with a cheeky smile. 

Boris Johnson went to Luxembourg yesterday for talks with Jean-Claude Juncker but his trip was largely overshadowed by a bizarre press conference conducted by Xavier Bettel

Boris Johnson went to Luxembourg yesterday for talks with Jean-Claude Juncker but his trip was largely overshadowed by a bizarre press conference conducted by Xavier Bettel

In August 2016, as the EU wrestled with Europe's refugee crisis, Mr Juncker remarked: 'Borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians.'

In December 2018 he was confronted by Theresa May at a European Council summit after he appeared to call the UK PM's Brexit plan 'nebulous'. Mr Juncker was forced to beat a hasty retreat as he pleaded his innocence in front of a visibly angry Mrs May. 

He was also rebuked at the same summit after he greeted a female colleague by ruffling her long blonde hair. 

Meanwhile, footage of Mr Juncker struggling to walk in July last year at a Nato summit prompted questions about his health. 

The European Commission responded with fury to suggestions Mr Juncker may have been drunk as a spokesman said it was down to a 'particularly painful attack of sciatica'. 

It was not the first time Mr Juncker appeared to be unsteady on his feet in public and Mr Juncker himself has previously blamed sciatica.  

Luxembourg's Prime Minister is Xavier Bettel, the fiercely anti-Brexit son of a wine merchant who humiliated Boris in front of jeering Remainer crowds

Mr Bettel has been the prime minister of Luxembourg since 2013 but he is almost completely unknown on the international stage.

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. 

Mr Bettel greeted Mr Johnson ahead of their meeting at the prime minister's office in Luxembourg yesterday

Mr Bettel greeted Mr Johnson ahead of their meeting at the prime minister's office in Luxembourg yesterday

Mr Bettel and Mr Johnson's meeting appeared to be cordial enough but the Luxembourg PM seemed much happier today in Paris as he was given a pat on the back by Emmanuel Macron as they met for talks

Mr Bettel and Mr Johnson's meeting appeared to be cordial enough but the Luxembourg PM seemed much happier today in Paris as he was given a pat on the back by Emmanuel Macron as they met for talks 

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. 

He is reportedly the son of a wine merchant and a distant relation of the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. 

He studied at university in France before also spending time at Aristotle University in Greece. 

It was 'saved' from Nazi 'Germanisation' by the Allies in the Second World War 

Mr Bettel's actions at the press conference yesterday prompted a furious backlash from Tory Brexiteers as former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith pointed out the UK had 'saved' the country from the Nazis during the Second World War. 

Mr Duncan Smith said world leaders had a duty to show 'courtesy and civility' as he suggested Luxembourg had more reason than most to be courteous to Britain. 

He told The Telegraph: 'The irony is that Luxembourg was saved by Britain. National leaders should always treat one another with courtesy and civility. Good ones do.'  

Luxembourg was invaded by Nazi Germany in May 1940 even though it was officially designated as neutral country, with Britain playing a key role in its liberation.

Initially after it was invaded it was put under the control of a military administration before it was eventually annexed and made a formal part of Germany.

The Nazis tried to portray Luxembourg as a natural part of the Third Reich and used propaganda and terror to try to 'Germanise' the population. 

The 'Germanisation' of Luxembourg involved trying to get rid of all French influence over the country and the Nazis banned the French language and made German the official language. Wearing a beret was also outlawed.

Luxembourg was liberated by the Allies in September 1944 but while the capital city remained in their control they had to fight off a counter attack from the Nazis in the north of the country in the December.

The man put in charge of Luxembourg by the Nazis, Gustav Simon, was captured and taken to a British Army prison in central Germany where he is believed to have committed suicide.  

It is heavily reliant on banking to prop up its economy

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the size of its economy versus the size of its population, the Luxembourg economy is largely dominated by financial services. 

The Global Financial Centres Index ranks Luxembourg as the 30th most competitive financial services area in the world. 

In Europe it is only behind London, Frankfurt, Paris, and Geneva.

Beyond banking, Luxembourg is an export-heavy economy with Germany, France and Belgium its biggest export partners. 

Machinery, computers, iron and steel are among the country's main exports.

It is the home of the European Court of Justice

Despite it's small size, Luxembourg plays a key role in the EU as the home of the European Court of Justice. 

It is based in Luxembourg City itself and is the EU's top court, having the final say on all matters of European law. 

Luxembourg City is home to the European Court of Justice. As the EU's highest court it is the subject of intense hatred for many Brexiteers

Luxembourg City is home to the European Court of Justice. As the EU's highest court it is the subject of intense hatred for many Brexiteers

As a result it has been repeatedly attacked by Brexiteers who view it as everything that is wrong with being a member of the EU - namely that Britain must abide by laws and judgements made far away from Westminster. 

Leaving the jurisdiction of the ECJ is frequently cited by Brexiteers as one of the keys to Britain regaining its sovereignty.

The court added to Eurosceptic fury in December last year after it ruled that the UK can cancel Brexit without the permission of the other 27 EU member states. 

Emmanuel Macron today warmly embraced Luxembourg's PM after he made an extraordinary bid to humiliate Boris Johnson.

The French president hugged and patted Xavier Bettel was he welcomed him to the Elysee Palace in Paris this morning.

The effusive greeting came amid fury at the treatment doled out to Mr Johnson on his trip to Luxembourg yesterday - and Remainer fears that it might have backfired by stoking anti-EU sentiment.

Mr Bettel - whose country has a population of just 600,000 and an economy half the size of the NHSbudget - refused to move a joint press conference with Mr Johnson indoors to prevent the British PM being 'drowned out' a small but noisy protest.

Instead he continued with the media call solo, delivering a furious anti-Brexit rant against the backdrop of a Union flag, while gesturing at the empty podium set up for Mr Johnson.

The effusive greeting came amid fury at the treatment doled out to Mr Johnson on his trip to Luxembourg yesterday

The effusive greeting came amid fury at the treatment doled out to Mr Johnson on his trip to Luxembourg yesterday

The French and Luxembourg premiers posed for pictures together amid fears the calculated insult to Mr Johnson has fueled Eurosceptic sentiment in the UK

The French and Luxembourg premiers posed for pictures together amid fears the calculated insult to Mr Johnson has fueled Eurosceptic sentiment in the UK

What is the Irish backstop and why is it so divisive?

The so-called Irish border backstop is one of the most controversial parts of the existing Brexit deal. This is what it means: 

What is the backstop? 

The backstop was invented to meet promises to keep open the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland even if there is no comprehensive UK-EU trade deal.

The divorce deal says it will kick in automatically at the end of the Brexit transition period if that agreement is not in place.

It effectively keeps the UK in a customs union with the EU, and Northern Ireland in both the customs union and single market.

This means many EU laws will keep being imposed on the UK, restricting its ability to do its own trade deals. It also means regulatory checks on some goods crossing the Irish Sea. 

Why have Ireland and the EU demanded it? 

Because the UK is leaving the customs union and single market, the EU said it needed guarantees that people and goods circulating inside its border - in this case in Ireland - met its rules.

This is covered by the Brexit transition, which effectively maintains the status quo, and can in theory be done in the comprehensive EU-UK trade deal.

But the EU said there had to be a backstop to cover what happens in any gap between the transition and final deal.  

Why do critics hate it? 

Because Britain cannot decide when to leave the backstop. 

Getting out - even if there is a trade deal - can only happen if both sides agree and Brexiteers fear the EU will unreasonably demand the backstop continues so EU law continues to apply in Northern Ireland.  

Northern Ireland MPs also hate the regulatory border in the Irish Sea, insisting it unreasonably carves up the United Kingdom.   

What are the UK's new proposals?

The latest blueprint being floated would not be the same as a previous Northern Ireland-only backstop floated by Brussels, which was dismissed by Theresa May as something no British PM could accept.

That would have involved the province staying within the EU's tax jurisdiction.

Instead, the idea is thought to be a much looser alignment of agricultural and food regulations with Ireland. 

That could help avoid many checks on the border, but it is far from clear it would be acceptable either to the EU or the DUP.

 

 

Brexiteers step up attack on 'rude' Xavier Bettel over snub to Boris Johnson

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