The Invisible Hulk?

Boris Johnson was supposed to be in this picture but he ran away

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Why did Boris Johnson not appear for his press conference?

By Joe Harker

Boris Johnson's attempt to be called The Incredible Hulk hasn't really gone to plan, with his recent disappearance from a press conference giving way to jokes based on the name.

Either the Invisible Hulk or the Incredible Sulk, the prime minister decided not to stand alongside Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel due to the noise being made by protesters.

Was Johnson stitched up or should he have faced the music instead of running away?

The Claim:

Tory MPs have accused Bettel of setting up a "trick" for Johnson, putting him in a position where he would either have to conduct the conference with interruption by protesters or walk away.

They argued that the "ambush" demonstrated the EU was mocking Johnson, trying to make a fool out of the prime minister by having him shouted at or mocking his absence depending on whether he decided to stick around.

They also said a refusal to move the press conference inside was a clear sign that the location had been chosen as somewhere uncomfortable for Johnson to be, though officials present were told the reason was because there wasn't space for all the reporters inside.

Supporters of Johnson and Brexit took it as evidence that the EU was being mean to the UK and trying to show up the prime minister.

The Counter Claim:

Johnson claimed he decided not to participate in the press conference out of respect for Bettel, saying the loud protests from Brits abroad in Luxembourg would have drowned out the points the pair of prime ministers were trying to make.

The prime minister said the last two weeks had produced cause for optimism even though a Brexit deal was not "necessarily in the bag".

The BBC's Katya Adler said the farce wasn't indicative of the EU losing patience with Johnson, only that behind closed doors many leaders are irritated with the lengthy Brexit process.

Johnson spent part of his career writing lies about the EU for the British press before he got fired for making up quotes so he was never going to get the warmest of welcomes but they have been willing to listen.

Instead they are exasperated less at his past actions and more with his present behaviour, Johnson's insistence that a deal is creeping closer would appear to be false with no concrete proposals yet presented by the UK.

They're a bit sick of Johnson saying there's cause for optimism and hinting at the chances of a deal getting closer when he's not even presented anything new yet.

The Facts:

The British press described BoJo's no show as a "humiliation", but then again so did many European outlets.

While they agree Johnson went away humiliated the decison over which side takes the blame has been split, with the Brits blaming Luxembourg PM Bettel and the European press blaming Johnson for doing a runner.

The press conference went on without Johnson, leaving Bettel to indicate the empty podium beside him and comment on the "nightmare" that unfolded.

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