JUST a day after comparing the UK to the superhero comic book character the Hulk, Boris Johnson turned into the invisible man, chickening out of a press conference with the prime minister of Luxembourg after he was booed by a handful of protesters.

A clearly furious Xavier Bettel went ahead with the joint question and answer session, standing behind his lectern while the one earmarked for the British Prime Minister went unused.

Number 10 sources claimed that after Johnson was booed going into the meeting with his counterpart they had requested that the press conference be held inside, away from the crowds.

That request was, however, refused. Bettel’s office denied that it had intended to purposely embarrass Johnson, but the effect was humiliating.

Speaking to the assembled press, the Luxembourger premier thanked Johnson for showing up for talks, saying it was important to hear concrete proposals.

He made clear the only proposal on the table is the withdrawal agreement, already rejected three times by the UK Parliament.

The EU would not accept any proposal that undermines the Good Friday Agreement, he said. “I know the UK Government is unhappy with the Withdrawal Agreement as it stands. That’s why I thought it was important to speak to Prime Minister Johnson to get proposals. We need more than just words.”

There need to be a legally operational text to work on “as soon as possible” if the October deadline was to be met, he added.

Bettel continued: “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. You can’t hold their future hostage for party political gains.”

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Boris Johnson with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker

Gesturing to the empty podium where the Tory leader should have been standing, 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.”

Luxembourg’s prime minister added: “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.”

Bettel urged Johnson to “stop speaking and act”. He added: “But we won’t accept any agreement that goes against a single market, that will be against the Good Friday Agreement.”

He said “solidarity” with Ireland is “strong” before noting: “This Brexit it’s not my choice. It’s been a decision from a party, a decision from David Cameron to do it. 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.”

Speaking to Sky News afterwards, Johnson said his “points would have been drowned out” by protesters, and that he didn’t think it fair to have Bettel subjected to the abuse.

The Prime Minister went on to say that the UK had “actually just the right amount of time to do a deal” with the EU before the crucial European summits on October 17 and 18. “Yes there is a good chance of a deal,” Johnson said. “Yes, I can see the shape of it, everybody can see roughly what could be done, but it will require movement and it

will require the system by which the EU can control the UK after we leave, the so-called backstop, to go from that treaty, and that needs to happen.

“So 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.

“But as I never tire of telling you, if we can’t do a deal by then, and obviously we want to work very hard to do it, but if we can’t do it by then, we’ll make sure that we can come out of the EU on October 31, deal or no deal.”

Johnson’s meeting with Bettel followed lunch with European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker. In a statement the Commission said it was still waiting for the UK’s “legally operational solutions”.