Theresa May holds up Belgium football shirt in PR gaffe
Theresa May Theresa May holds up Belgium football shirt in PR gaffe
Prime minister has teamâs top handed to her by Belgian counterpart
They say sports and politics make uneasy bedfellows, and Theresa May will no doubt now agree. At the start of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, the British prime minister was ambushed by her Belgian counterpart, Charles Michel, who presented her with a Belgium football team top ahead of the England v Belgium World Cup game.
May held up the Red Devilsâ strip, before realising that doing so might be considered a PR gaffe. She attempted to swiftly stash it away only for fe llow leaders gathered around her to point to the TV monitors showing her reaction live to a packed hall of reporters outside the leadersâ meeting room. . The French president, Emmanuel Macron, appeared particularly amused by the jape.Napping May scores own goal in face of Belgium Brexit striker Read more
The shirt â" unfurled by Michel from a gift box â" had 10 on the back, perhaps a nod to Mayâs Downing Street home, or Belgiumâs finest player, Eden Hazard. To her credit, the prime minister appeared to take the incident in good spirit, although she is known to be more of a cricket fan, with a fondness for the slow but steady batting of Geoffrey Boycott.
Michel went on to pass around Belgian football scarves to some of the other EU leaders. The Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who admitted he would be cheering on Belgium in their tie with England, happily posed with one, as did Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister. The European commission president , Jean-Claude Juncker, beamed as he was handed a scarf, with the match seemingly taking on some symbolic value at a crunch time in the Brexit negotiations.
The prime minister later gave Michel a replica England shirt at a dinner where she addressed the other 27 leaders on her plans for the relationship after Brexit. On handing him the top, May told the Belgian premier: âThe equalizer.â She also brought souvenir T-shirts for his two children, with the flags of the two footballing nations on the front, and the date of the tie. A UK government source said: âThe Belgian prime minister obviously decided that he needed to get in ahead of the first whistle.â
As for support for the England team, there wasnât much on show at the summit. However, Varadkar later pointed out that a loss for England could, due to the vagaries of the group stage, lead to an easier path for Gareth Southgateâs team to an unlikely second World Cup victory, by avoiding an early match with Br azil. âIt could be a win-win situation,â Varadkar told reporters of his decision to back the Belgians.
The former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who was also at the summit, tweeted of Varadkarâs comments: âThis tells us all we need to know. He really is the yes-man of Europe.â
Ireland, with the support of 26 member states, is piling on the pressure for the UK to come up with a solution that will avoid a hard border in Ireland after Brexit.
The UK ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, has been given the job of updating the prime minister on the progress of the match with Belgium, a host nation for EU institutions, as the match clashed with the leadersâ meal.
Farage, watching the match buildup from one of the heaving bars in the Brussels EU quarter, later described the tie with Belgium as a âgrudge matchâ. Earlier this summer, in response to the MEPâs claim that Belgium wasnât a real country, the European parliament Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, had goaded Farage on Twitter: âHeâll see how real Belgium is when we play England in the World Cup!â
Farage told the Guardian: âLosing could be better for England but pride and machismo got the better of me.â He added that a victorious Verhofstadt is always âunbearableâ.Topics
- Theresa May
- European Union
- World Cup
- World Cup 2018
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