Published On: Wed, Aug 21st, 2019

Brexit news: Angela Merkel to cling to backstop to prevent massive EU crisis | UK | News

Angela Merkel will not “throw Ireland under the bus” by agreeing to remove the backstop from the Brexit withdrawal agreement, according to the former German diplomat. Mr Mathussek however conceded Mrs Merkel will be giving the Prime Minister “reason for hope” by offering to change details within the political declaration – the document setting out details on the future relationship between the bloc and the UK. The German Chancellor is to meet with Boris Johnson in Berlin on Wednesday to discuss British demands to lift the controversial clause from the proposed deal after months of refusal from the European Union to budge.

Mr Mathussek told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “As far as the backstop is concerned, I think we cannot throw Ireland – who is a foundation of the Good Friday Agreement, the end of the Troubles – under the bus.

“What message would that send to other members of the EU family if we gave up that sort of loyalty and solidarity?”

The former German Ambassador to the UK also dismissed suggestions claiming German businesses will rebel against the Chancellor, claiming the protection of the single market remained a top priority ahead of avoiding a no deal Brexit.

He continued: “The interesting thing is all the German businesses and associations stand absolutely firm on this line behind the Government because for the German industry it is much more important to maintain the integrity of the common market than the business with Britain.

“Of course we will suffer, some countries will suffer more, some will suffer less but business has sent, many times, a clear message – they do not want to reopen this deal that was signed by two sides and was hoped to be ratified in the British House of Commons.”

Mr Mathussek however conceded Mrs Merkel will be giving the Prime Minister “reason for hope” by offering to change details within the political declaration – the document setting out details on the future relationship between the bloc and the UK. 

The former diplomat claimed the Chancellor will offer to include reassurances the two parties will maintain a close trading relationship once Britain officially leaves the European Union.

Mr Johnson on Monday reiterated his commitment to secure an agreement with Brussels as he outlined the reasons behind his demand to remove the backstop from the deal.

The Prime Minister branded the policy as “anti-democratic,” insisting the UK would be forced to remain closely aligned to EU trading regulations should the backstop be triggered.

Writing to European Council President Donald Tusk, Mr Johnson said: “The backstop locks the UK, potentially indefinitely, into an international treaty which will bind us into a customs union and which applies large areas of single market legislation in Northern Ireland.

“It is inconsistent with the UK’s desired final destination for a sustainable long-term relationship with the EU. When the UK leaves the EU and after any transition period, we will leave the single market and the customs union.

“It has become increasingly clear that the backstop risks weakening the delicate balance embodied in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. The historic compromise in Northern Ireland is based upon a carefully negotiated balance between both traditions in Northern Ireland, grounded in agreement, consent, and respect for minority rights.”

But in his curt response to the Prime Minister, President Tusk claimed the British Government failed to offer a viable alternative to the backstop Brussels could accept. 


Taking to Twitter, the Polish politician said: “The backstop is insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found. Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support re-establishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker echoed Mr Tusk’s comments as a spokeswoman for the top Eurocrat, who is recovering from surgery, said Mr Johnson had failed to provide Brussels with a “legal operation solution.”

The Commission spokeswoman said: “The letter does not set out what any alternative arrangements could be and recognises there is no guarantee such arrangements will be in place by the end of the transition.

“I don’t think it is the time to enter into blame games. What we believe is that an orderly withdrawal is in the best interests of both the EU and the UK and this is what we continue to push for.

“It’s Brexit that creases unique difficulties for the island of Ireland. Both the EU and the UK need a legally operational solution in the withdrawal agreement that will prevent that hard border and respect the Good Friday Agreement – that is the sole purpose of the backstop.”

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