Nebulous is an adjective and has two meanings; in the form of a cloud or haze; hazy or (of a concept) vague or ill-defined. Some of the synonyms of nebulous include ambiguous, muddy and opaque. So Theresa May took great offence when president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker publicly denounced Britain’s Brexit demands calling them “nebulous.”
In a heated exchange which was caught by TV cameras but not the sound, lipreaders said the prime minister sternly told the European Commission president: “You called me nebulous Yes you did!”
The tense conversation followed a press conference on Thursday evening in which Mr Juncker referred to the Brexit debate as “sometimes nebulous and imprecise.”
Mrs May appeared to confront the president about these comments which she described as a “robust discussion”.
But Mr Juncker said Mrs May was “kissing me” after she “checked” the comments he made on Thursday night.
The president said he was “not addressing” Mrs May in his remarks and instead intended to direct his criticism at the “overall state” of the Brexit debate.
The stand-off was analysed by two lip-reading experts reported by Channel 5 News.
The conversation only picked up Mrs May’s language, but not the EU chief’s.
In the head-to-head at the EU summit centre in Brussels, Mrs May confronted the president saying: “What did you call me? You called me nebulous?”
She added: “Yes you did, nebulous.” But Mr Juncker denied the claim: “No I didn’t, I didn’t.”
The exchange is broken up by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Mrs May was asked about the conversation by reporters and said: “I had a robust discussion with Jean-Claude Juncker – I think that’s the sort of discussion you’re able to have when you have developed a working relationship and you work well together.
“And what came out of that was his clarity that actually he’d been talking – when he used that particular phrase – he’d been talking about a general level of debate.”
Mr Juncker was also quizzed about the video clip and said: “She thought that I did criticise her by saying yesterday night that the British position was nebulous…I did not refer to her but to the overall state of the debate in Britain.”
He added: “I was not addressing her, and in the course of the morning after having checked what I said yesterday night, she was kissing me.”
Mrs May is in Brussels to appeal to the other 27 national EU leaders for some legally binding amendments to the Brexit deal that she agreed with them last month but is unable to get through the UK parliament.
However the EU has refused to make any changes to the controversial back-stop, designed to avoid extensive border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The leaders issued a statement stressing they hoped it would not be used, or only for a very short time.