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'You called me nebulous!': Juncker explains remarks after heated exchange with Theresa May goes viral

Merriam-Webster said that searches for the word “nebulous” were up 12,000% today.

Image: DPA/PA Images

PRESIDENT OF THE European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has attempted to clarify his remarks after a video showing a heated exchange between him and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

May confirmed that she had a “robust discussion” with Juncker after footage emerged this morning of the pair having a heated row at an EU summit.

As the leaders gathered in their conference room, May was filmed by the EU’s in-house TV crew confronting Juncker after he called the UK’s position on Brexit “nebulous”.

Instead of the anodyne pleasantries the leaders normally exchange in front of the cameras, a visibly angry May confronted Juncker to demand he explain his comments.

“What did you call me? You called me nebulous. Yes you did,” May said according to lip-readers hired by Britain’s Channel 5 News.

As Juncker puts his hand on May’s arm to placate her, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is seen striding across the room to restore the peace.

At a press conference this afternoon, Juncker was asked about the comments again.

He first joked that “we were not dancing” – a possible reference to May’s entrance to the Tory party conference where she danced on stage to Abba’s “Dancing Queen”.

He then attempted to clarify that he used the word “nebulous” to mean “foggy” and it was in reference to the parliament debate, rather than May herself.

I did not refer to her but the overall state of the debate in Britain… I was following the debate in the House and I can’t see where the British parliament is heading.

The word “nebulous” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as meaning “indistinct, or vague”, Oxford has the first meaning as “hazy” and the second as “vague or ill-defined”.

Merriam-Webster said that searches for the word “nebulous” were up 12,000% today after the exchange went viral.

Tensions are high between the UK and the EU after an EU Council summit held yesterday and today.

After Theresa May survived a vote of confidence in her leadership of the Tory party, she returned to Brussels to attempt to salvage her Brexit deal.

May had postponed the House of Commons vote on her deal after forecasts predicted it had no chance of being approved: some MPs expressed concern at the idea of the UK remaining in a customs deal with the EU indefinitely, and without having any unilateral power to withdraw from the backstop if the next round of talks fail.

She had thought that if the EU were to give additional assurances, that the deal might pass through the House of Commons; but she failed to gain any additional promises to time-limit the backstop or to give the UK more power to leave it in the future.

All bets are off as to what happens next: the House of Commons breaks for Christmas on 21 December, and doesn’t return until 7 January.

The vote on May’s Brexit deal must be held before 21 January to keep to the timetable for the UK to leave the EU by 29 March.

- with reporting from AFP

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