British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday compared her Brexit battle with Brussels to Liverpool footballers’ stirring Champions League comeback against Barcelona — risking ridicule from the left-leaning city.
The English club lost the first leg of the semi-final clash 3-0 in Spain and seemed headed for certain defeat after their injured stars Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were ruled for Tuesday’s return fixture at Anfield.
But Liverpool staged one of the greatest comebacks in their storied history by winning 4-0 at home and getting through to their second successive Champions League final.
May appeared for her weekly question-and-answer session in parliament on Wednesday with both Brexit and football on her mind.
Liverpool’s win “shows us that when everyone says it’s all over, that your European opposition have got you beat, the clock’s ticking down, it’s time to concede defeat, actually we can still secure success if everyone comes together,” May said to rousing cheers from her fellow Conservative Party members.
Her comments came in response to what was meant to be a football-themed zinger from opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“In view of the amazing Liverpool result last night, perhaps the prime minister could take tips from Jurgen Klopp on how to get a result in Europe,” Corbyn said in reference to Liverpool’s charismatic German manager.
– ‘Embarrassing’ –
The unlikely exchange at the very top of May’s appearance highlighted both Britain’s obsession with football and the gripping nature of Liverpool’s performance on Tuesday night.
But they are not the most obvious team for May to suddenly embrace.
Liverpool is a historically liberal port city that likes to buck convention and was the home of Labour’s annual party conference last year.
Its suspicion of the Conservatives deepened when a magazine edited by Boris Johnson — May’s former foreign minister and current leadership rival — accused the city of wallowing in “victim status” over the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in which 96 people died.
Johnson initially defended the 2004 article before backtracking and calling it “a kick in the pants for me”.
“I am not sure that (May’s comments) will warm the cockles of the people of Liverpool,” ITV television’s political editor Robert Peston wrote on Twitter.
“Jesus wept,” The Guardian newspaper’s football columnist Sid Lowe agreed in his own tweet.
“Talk about inviting yourself in where you’re not wanted. Embarrassing.”
May has been labouring to emulate the footballers’ never-say-never spirit for months as she defends her handling of Brexit.
The beleaguered British premier has been forced to ask EU leaders to give her more time to get the deal she struck with Brussels on ending the sides’ 46-year partnership through the UK parliament.
Brtain was originally meant to have left the EU on March 29. The new deadline has been set for October 31 — and might yet be extended again.
The delays prompted May’s government to admit Tuesday that the nation will have no choice but to take part in European Parliament elections on May 23.
The decision has drawn fury and scorn from EU opponents who voted in favour of Brexit in a 2016 national referendum.