The National:

BORIS Johnson loves a historical reference as a useful method to distract from the fact he's saying absolutely nothing of substance ... but he might just have soured on them.

Because, during the PM's visit to Ireland for Brexit talks, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar turned the tables.

The two were giving a joint press conference when Varadkar spoke about the difficulty the UK was in.

"We both agree we have much to discuss, we accept the democratic and sovereign decisions to leave the EU," he said.

"However in my view the story of Brexit won't end if the UK leaves the EU the 31st October or even the 31st of January.

"There is no such thing as a clean break, or just getting it done. Rather we'll just move on to a new phase.

"If there is No Deal it'll cause severe disruption for British and Irish people alike, not so much on the continent."

At this point, Johnson was already looking around sheepishly. But it got worse for him.

On negotiations, Varadkar went on: "It's gonna be very tough. We'll have to deal with issues like tariffs, fishing rights, product standards, state aid, and it will then have to be ratified by 31 parliaments.

"Prime Minister, negotiating FTAs with the EU and the US and securing their ratification in less than three years I think is going to be a Herculean task for you.

"But we do want to be your friend and your ally, your Athena in doing so, and I think the manner in which you leave the European Union will determine whether that's possible."

Old Etonian that he is, Johnson, looking rather humiliated, had to smile at this reference – and he might just have known exactly how devastating it was.

Athena has often been used as a symbol for democracy, something Johnson is particularly contemptuous of.

But even more than that, Athena is known for having saved Hercules several times. She even saved Hercules from his own madness – in one story, knocking him out just before he kills his own father.

The parallels between the composure of Ireland and chaos of Brexit Britain are fairly clear to see. Varadkar made sure Johnson knew that.