Thursday 19 September 2019

EU being 'a bit negative', says Boris Johnson as Angela Merkel warns the Withdrawal Agreement will not be revisited

Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Collins

Kylie MacLellan

The European Union is being "a bit negative" about the prospects of reaching a Brexit deal but it can be done, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

The bloc earlier rebuffed Johnson's demand that it reopen the Brexit divorce deal, saying Britain had failed to propose any realistic alternative to the backstop, an agreed insurance policy for the Irish border.

"At the moment it is absolutely true that our friends and partners are a bit negative ... but I think we'll get there. I think there is a real sense now that something needs to be done with this backstop," Johnson told reporters.

Johnson said: "We think there's a big opportunity now for everybody to come together, take out that backstop and then... in the course of the negotiations on the free trade deal... which we're going to do after October 31, we will be bringing forward all the ways in which we can maintain frictionless trade at the Northern Irish border."

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Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Collins

In a phone call with Johnson's Brexit minister, Tánaiste and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney expressed concern at the lack of alternatives to the backstop presented in a letter Johnson sent to European Council President Donald Tusk.

READ MORE: Donald Tusk: 'Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives support re-establishing a border'

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier said the EU would think about practical solutions regarding the post-Brexit border between North and the Republic, but not by revisiting the Withdrawal Agreement.

"The moment we have a practical arrangement on how to preserve the Good Friday agreement and at the same time define the borders of the (European Union's) internal market, we would not need the backstop anymore," Merkel told a news conference during a visit to Iceland.

"This means we would naturally think about practical solutions. And I've always said that when one has the will to find these solutions, one can do so in a short period of time. The EU is ready to find a solution."

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

She said this would not require the Withdrawal Agreement to be re-opened and was instead a question of the so-called political declaration on future ties.

READ MORE: Explainer: A guide to the Brexit backstop, and why there's a UK-EU standoff

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