'Ball in EU's court' as Boris Johnson gets ping-pong present

Prague (AFP) –


Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday received a toy table-tennis set from his Czech counterpart, a gift intended as a reflection of his country's back-and-forth talks with the EU.

Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said the German-made set, which is sold for roughly four euros ($5) in Prague and is coincidentally called "Little Boris", was a symbolic gift.

"I gave him the set so he could practise while travelling. I know he's good at ping-pong," Zaoralek told reporters after having lunch with Johnson, who was visiting Prague to discuss Britain's looming exit from the European Union.

It is not the first time Johnson has been associated with table-tennis, after claiming to Chinese hosts at the end of the 2008 Beijing Olympics that ping-pong was invented on the dining tables of England in the 19th century, when it was called "wiff-waff".

Having accepted the gift in good humour, Johnson did not miss a beat in drawing a parallel between his country's talks on leaving the EU and the sport.

"If this is ping-pong, what I would respectfully say is that the ball is now in your court, as it were, our friends and partners in the European Union," he said.

"We look forward to seeing how you can get it back over the net to continue this conversation," he added, emphasising that Britain wanted "to build a deep and special partnership with our friends in the EU".