German Chancellor Angela Merkel challenged Britain to come up with alternatives to the Irish border backstop within 30 days, but French President Emmanuel Macron cautioned there would be no renegotiation of the Brexit deal, Reuters reports.
“It was said we will probably find a solution in two years. But we could also find one in the next 30 days, why not?” Merkel was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
Speaking beside Merkel at the German Chancellery in Berlin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeatedly said that the Irish border backstop – which is a protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement struck by his predecessor Theresa May – needs to be removed in full.
Johnson confirmed that Merkel had given him 30 days to come up with alternatives and said there was ample scope for a deal, a British source told Reuters.
More than three years after the UK voted to quit the European Union, it is still unclear on what terms – or indeed whether – the bloc’s second largest economy will leave the club it joined in 1973.
Johnson, a Brexiteer who won the premiership a month ago, is betting that the threat of “no-deal” Brexit turmoil will convince Merkel and Macron that the EU should do a last-minute deal to suit his demands, the report noted.
But just an hour after Merkel spoke, France’s Macron said the demands made by Johnson for a renegotiation of the divorce deal, including the removal of the Irish backstop, are not workable as they currently stand.
Johnson is due to meet Macron in Paris on Thursday.
Asked about the distance between the positions of London and the other 27 members of the EU, Johnson said: “If we approach this with sufficient patience and optimism, we can get this done. It’s in the final furlong generally when the horses change places and the winning deal appears.”
But with just over 10 weeks left until the scheduled departure, the EU has repeatedly said it will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement and that it will stand behind member state Ireland.
Merkel has previously promised to discuss “practical solutions” to the Irish border insurance policy or “backstop” that Johnson says is unacceptable – but she has said the Withdrawal Agreement would not be reopened.
The German leader has suggested solving the Irish border riddle as part of the declaration on post-Brexit ties – a possible way to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
But France now believes no-deal Brexit is now the most likely Brexit scenario, said an official in Macron’s office who cautioned that Berlin and Paris were united.
“Have no doubt that the French and German positions — and elsewhere — are the same. There’s not the thickness of a cigarette paper between us,” a French official told Reuters.