‘Keep Distance’: EU Chief Orders Boris Johnson To Follow Covid Rules At Key Summit

Crunch Brexit talks get off to an awkward start as Ursula von der Leyen ensures order.

Boris Johnson was reminded to maintain social distancing as he arrived in Brussels for make-or-break Brexit talks with the EU.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told the prime minister to “keep distance” as the pair prepared to take their masks off for a photo opportunity.

In an awkward start to the talks, von der Leyen then reminded Johnson: “Then we have put it back on. You have to put it back on immediately, so no chance (of infection).”

“You run a tight ship here, Ursula, and quite right too,” said Johnson, who seemed shocked with being implored to put the face covering back on “immediately:.

The pair disappeared for a dinner which could decide the fate of the Brexit deal both sides have been negotiating since January.

Johnson is welcomed by von der Leyen in the Berlaymont building at the EU headquarters
Johnson is welcomed by von der Leyen in the Berlaymont building at the EU headquarters
OLIVIER HOSLET via Getty Images

It isn’t the first time the PM has faced questions about his approach to social distancing rules.

Johnson’s official spokesperson was forced to insist “social distancing did happen” following a Downing Street meeting last month which forced at least six Tory MPs, two aides and the PM himself into self isolation after one of those present, Lee Anderson, tested positive for Covid.

The PM also infamously boasted on March 3 of having shaken hands “with everybody” he met in a hospital which had a confirmed coronavirus case.

On the same day the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) body had told ministers they should “advise against greetings such as shaking hands” in an effort to curb the spread of the illness.

The prime minister made a point of shaking hands with Phillip Schofield, even though the presenter kept his hands to his sides when he interviewed him on ITV’s This Morning.

He was then photographed on March 9 shaking hands with the boxer Anthony Joshua at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said that Johnson would not have been aware at the time of the SPI-B paper, which did not at that point represent the considered view of Sage.

Johnson told reporters at a press conference in Downing Street: “I am shaking hands. I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were coronavirus patients and I was shaking hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.

“People must make up their own minds but I think the scientific evidence is … our judgment is that washing your hands is the crucial thing.”

Johnson later developed coronavirus symptoms and was taken to intensive care in a London hospital.


What's Hot