British politician's 'Beirut basement' comment on Brexit sparks outrage

British politician's 'Beirut basement' comment on Brexit sparks outrage
Lebanese MP Nadim Gemayel has accused Sir Vince Cable of perpetuating an out-of-date image of the Lebanon in his recent comments, and invited the Liberal Democrat leader to visit.
2 min read
20 Sep, 2017
Cable's comments were were slammed by politicians in Lebanon [AFP]
A pro-EU British politician's comments comparing Prime Minister Theresa May to a hostage in a basement in Beirut sparked anger in Lebanon on Tuesday.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Vince Cable said May's handling of Brexit negotiations was similar to that of a prisoner at the mercy of her captors in a Beirut basement flat.

"It's a bit like being handcuffed to a radiator in the basement of a flat in Beirut and she is at the mercy of other people," Vince told BuzzFeed on Thursday. 

His comments were slammed by politicians in Lebanon, who were outraged by the portrayal.

"We will continue fighting for the true Lebanon and ensure that it remains difficult to be described in this manner again," said MP Nadim Gemayel, told Britain's The Times.

Gemayel, who represents Beirut in parliament, said it was regretful that many outside Lebanon continue to imagine his country as a place of conflict following years of civil war.

"Unfortunately Lebanon has gotten used to these outdated stereotypes," he said, "Those who've actually visited Lebanon will realise how ridiculously far Sir Vince's comments are from the truth."

Gemayel, whose father Bashir was elected as Lebanon's president in August 1982 but was assassinated one month later during the civil war, said Cable's comments were regretful.

"I find it sad to hear that the leader of the Liberal Democrats is unable to wisely choose his words especially since the UK has played such an active role in the modernisation of Lebanon after 15 years of civil war."

Gemayel invited Cable to visit Lebanon and see at first hand the country it has become since the civil war. 

British national Terry Waite, a well-known foreigner taken hostage in Beirut during the civil war in the 1980s, also weighed in on Cable's comments.

"That was a long time ago and Lebanon has moved on since those days," Waite told The Times.

"Although the image of the radiator has been fastened in the public imagination I was in fact never chained to one. I was always secured to staples driven into the wall," he said.

"I have a great sympathy for the people of Lebanon who have struggled hard to develop their country."