Boris Johnson appeared to roll his eyes as he was grilled on whether he had visited the Irish border on a visit to Dublin.
The squirming Prime Minister refused to answer the question despite being asked by two separate journalists.
Appearing alongside Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Mr Johnson laughed off a series of tricky questions about his lack of progress on a Brexit deal.
A journalist asked: “Prime Minister when you talk about people being found ‘dead in ditches’ there’s a sense in this country that you really don’t understand what’s at stake here.
“When is the last time you did actually go to the border? Have you crossed the open border like ministers from 12 EU countries have? Do you still think that it’s like crossing from Camden to Islington?
“Given that you’ve lost your working majority in the House of Parliament, will you be held ransom by the DUP in the same way Theresa May was?”
The PM seemed to roll his eyes at the repetition of his Camden/Islington comparison and he laughed at the mention of the DUP.
Dublin’s premier played down hopes of a breakthrough and sent a warning shot to the Tory leader.
Mr Varadkar warned organising trade deals with the US and other governments in good time would be a “Herculean task”.
He said he wanted to remain friends and allies with the EU but warned: “The manner in which you leave the EU will determine whether that’s possible.
Mr Varadkar added: “We both agree we have much to discuss, we accept the democratic and sovereign decisions to leave the EU,” he said.
Downing Street later admitted “significant gaps remain” between the two nations after an hour of talks between the PMs.
In a joint statement with Ireland, No10 said: “While they agreed that the discussions are at an early stage, common ground was established in some areas although significant gaps remain.
“They look forward to meeting each other again in the near future.”
“However in my view the story of Brexit won’t end if the UK leaves the EU on October 31 or January 31. There is no such thing as a clean break.”
Standing alongside Mr Varadkar, Mr Johnson said that a no-deal Brexit would represent a “failure of statecraft” by all concerned.
“I want to find a deal. I have looked carefully at no-deal. Yes, we could do it, the UK could certainly get through it, but be in no doubt that outcome would be a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible,” he said.
“I would overwhelmingly prefer to find an agreement. I do believe that a deal can be done by October 18 so let’s do it together.”
While he did not underestimate the “technical problems” involved in resolving the issue of the Irish border, he said the UK was ready to bring forward proposals to address the “full range of issues”.
They included the “electronic pre-clearance” of goods and the “unity” of the island of Ireland for agri-foods.
“Strip away the politics and at the core of each problem you find practical issues that can be resolved with sufficient energy and a spirit of compromise.”
Mr Varadkar said that he was willing to work with the Prime Minister as a “friend and ally” but said that Ireland was not prepared to accept the replacement of a “legal guarantee with a promise”.
“Avoiding a return to a hard border is the priority of this government,” he said.
“We are open to all alternatives legally workable but we have not received such to date.”
He added: “In the absence of agreed alternative arrangements, no backstop is no deal for us.”
Lord Peter Hain, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said: “ Boris Johnson today claimed to have an ‘abundance’ of new proposals for how to avoid a hard border in Ireland, but yet again he couldn’t name a single one.
“Meanwhile he has cut the number of people working on negotiations with the EU in the Cabinet Office down to just four, and he hasn’t even bothered to visit the Northern Ireland border as either Foreign Secretary or as Prime Minister to see for himself the problems leaving the EU will create.
“The reality is clear – Johnson has no intention of trying to get a deal. Instead he is using every trick in the book to try to force through a destructive and undemocratic No Deal which is the complete opposite of the ‘great deal’ he used to promise Britain would get.
“The Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is quite right to say that the ‘clean-break Brexit’ Johnson speaks of is a total fantasy. Crashing out of the EU with No Deal would resolve nothing, would put the UK in an extraordinarily weak negotiating position and would mean the endless Brexit crisis continuing for years and years to come.
“The only democratic way to resolve this crisis is to give the public the final say with a People’s Vote.”
Up to 100 demonstrators gathered outside Leinster House in Dublin on Monday morning ahead of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Dublin. Irish Premier Leo Varadkar is meeting with Mr Johnson at Government buildings in Dublin.
Mr Johnson has ruled out the British Government undergoing checks at the Northern Irish border ahead of his meeting with Mr Varadkar. The protest was led by Seamus McDonnell from Co Armagh who chanted: “No customs, no border, no Brexit.”
Sinn Fein councillor Dessie Ellis said: “We’re here today to protest against Boris Johnson’s visit to Dublin. We want to send out a strong message that we will not stand for a hard border or any border. There are people from all around the country here to tell him that today but particularly from the border region,” said Mr Ellis.
“People living in the border region will suffer immensely if a border comes back so the Taoiseach needs to stand strong, stand his ground and give that message from the Irish people,” said Mr Ellis.
“I think this visit from Boris Johnson is all about the optics. I would be very surprised if he delivers anything because he has been spoofing all throughout his negotiations with the EU so why is he going to treat the Irish government any differently” he said.