During the second meeting, Johnson’s team cancelled his participation in a planned press conference (that was announced to the media on Friday) in front of Bettel’s office, saying the noisy protestors would interfere with the press Q&A.
One of those British protestors, Anna Fox, disagreed with that assessment. “I was there to hear him despite what my sign or the press said,” Fox, who carried a placard that read “Bog off Boris”, told Delano on Wednesday. The demonstrators, mostly British expats, had agreed to let the press conference proceed uninterrupted, she said.
One reason she participated in the demonstration, the long-time resident of the grand duchy stated, was that “I was annoyed he thought Luxembourg was neutral, on top of everything else.”
Fox recounted her recollection of Monday’s events to Delano in her own words on Tuesday.
Aaron Grunwald: Why did you protest?
Anna Fox: Why as a menopausal middle-aged British immigrant did I find myself chasing Boris down the back streets of Luxembourg yesterday?
I am one of the 1.5 million British in Europe, affected directly by the result of a referendum that 60% of us did not have the right to vote in.
I feel that I have sat and stared in disbelief as this piece of theatre has been played out over the last three years. Yesterday was my chance to stand up.
Boris came to Luxembourg, one of the founding members of the EU, which I saw described as ‘neutral territory’. To me this showed a complete lack of understanding of the EU project, and a lack of respect for Luxembourg.
Luxembourg. The tiny heart of the EU, ended up beating so loudly that Boris was worried no one would hear him.
Anna Fox holds a protest placard during demonstrations on the place Clairefontaine in Luxembourg City, 16 September 2019. Photo courtesy of Anna Fox
AG: What do you think you achieved?
AF: It felt good to shout. To vent that sadness, frustration and anger that is in me, has surrounded me for the last three years. To finally feel that my voice was being heard. Apparently it was!
AG: How do you feel about Boris Johnson’s blowing off the protests and press conference?
AF: The police had moved a crowd of protesters upon their arrival at Le Bouquet Garni, saying that we had permission to protest in Place Clairefontaine only. However, they did not move us on when we tried again at the end of the lunch. As Boris Johnson followed Jean-Claude Juncker out of the restaurant he got his first welcome. The anger and frustration was real.
We then followed his car the 50 yards to the designated protest zone. The press crowd was probably bigger than our own. I stood with Brits that have been here five years, 10 years, 20 years or even 30. And yes, I have seen us described in press reports as a ‘few old people’ but to dispel another myth, most immigrants are of working age and were working at 3pm on a Monday afternoon.
We had to wait a while though before we saw Boris again. Michel Barnier was first in, accompanied by cries of “help us Monsieur Barnier, protect our rights” from the protesters.
But when Boris did show, it was obvious that he was a little surprised by little Luxembourg’s reaction.
Some members of the press asked us, in some cases told us, to be quiet when Boris would leave the building to take his place at the lectern. This was agreed. We all wanted to hear what he had to say. But while he was inside we heard a rumour, again from the press, that he wasn’t going to give the conference. That he was worried about the noise. And sure enough he walked past us. Smirking.
My daughter and I followed him to the [British] ambassador’s residence, leaving Mr Bettel and his empty lectern. I wanted to see what Boris was up to.
Well, he spent 10 minutes in the residence, presumably doing his piece to camera for the hand-picked few. And then he left. Still smirking.
AG: What will you do next?
AF: I will take my daughter to the UK on Friday for her to start at university.
Maybe I will take my sign with me.
How did political debate come down to this? Three words that grab a headline.
However, I really have nothing else left to say except…Bog off Boris!
Anti-Brexit protestors are seen on the place Clairefontaine in Luxembourg City while British PM Boris Johnson meets with Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel, 16 September 2019. Photo: Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne
AG: What can we say about you, Anna?
AF: I exercised my right to freedom of movement 21 years ago with a one-way Eurolines ticket to France. I lived, worked, and started a family there before coming to Luxembourg 10 years ago.
I am one of the ‘lucky ones’. I fulfilled the criteria to become a Luxembourg national, and I will be forever grateful to Luxembourg. I have a solution to remaining European, but I worry for those here and elsewhere that may not.
I worry for the Brits in Luxembourg. I worry for my children’s future. I worry for my parents and friends in the UK.