Published On: Wed, Aug 21st, 2019

Brexit news: Angela Merkel promises to discuss ‘friction free exit’ with Boris Johnson | UK | News

The Prime Minister is expected to face stiff opposition to his demand to scrap the controversial Northern Ireland backstop when he comes face-to-face with the German Chancellor for the first time in Berlin. Nonetheless, she will welcome Mr Johnson with open arms and a promise to discuss how the safety net to avoid a hard border on Ireland can be altered to satify Britain. Ahead of the talks, Ms Merkel said she “will discuss how we can achieve a friction-free exit of Great Britain from the European Union because naturally we have to fight for our economic growth”.

She added that Brexit and trade conflict are “clouding” the economic outlook and giving German government a “headache”.

Mr Johnson spelled out European Union leaders would have to accept a legal commitment against customs checks on the Irish border in order for there to be a Brexit deal.

Ms Merkel has, however, been warned by her confidants not to enter into renegotiations of the draft EU withdrawal agreement when the pair meet this afternoon.

Norbert Rottgen, the chair of Germany’s foreign affairs committee, said: “New rhetoric coming out of Westminster has not changed Germany’s position on Brexit.

“As long as there are no solutions to the border problem on the table, there’s no room for amending the withdrawal agreement.

“Flexible and creative solutions are not enough.”

Ms Merkel yesterday insisted she was prepared to work with Mr Johnson to find a “practical solution” to the Irish border.

She told reporters in Iceland: “The moment we have a practical arrangement with which we can uphold the Good Friday agreement and still define the limits of the domestic market, we won’t need the backstop anymore.

“That means, of course we will think about practical solutions. If you want to find these solutions in the future, you can also find them in the short term. The EU is ready for that.

“But for that we don’t need to reopen the exit agreement. That is a question of the future relationship.”

EU insiders see the German Chancellor’s offer as a bid to break the deadlock via the political declaration on the future relationship, something UK sources have so far rejected.

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“The Prime Minister needs to show he has a real solution for the border that keeps trade flows possible and infrastructure away, which has the support of the House.

“At the moment, he has neither.”

Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney, who has held talks with Stephen Barclay this week, has also attempt to ease no-deal tensions.

He said: “There’s a long way to go. Less than two-and-a-half months may seem like a very short period but in politics a lot can happen in that time.

“So speculating on the detail of how a no-deal Brexit will be managed, it’s probably not helpful to do that tonight.”

Mr Johnson last night told ITV that there are “plenty of other solutions” to the Northern Ireland backstop.

He added: “I think it’s a bit paradoxical that the EU side is talking about us putting up all the barriers, we’ve made it clear 1,000 times we don’t want to see any checks on the Northern Irish frontier at all, under no circumstances let me repeat again, under no circumstances will the Government of the United Kingdom be putting checks on the Northern Irish frontier.

“By contrast, it is the EU who currently claim that the single market and the plurality of the single market require them to have such checks – I don’t think that’s true.

“I’m going to go of course and see if I can explore those ideas with our friends in Germany and France and at the G7 – let’s see where we get to.

“It may be that for now, they stick with the mantra, rien ne va plus, and they can’t change a jot or a title of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

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