Sunday 18 August 2019

'Germany will stand by the Irish backstop until the end' - ambassador

Friendly call: Germany’s ambassador to Ireland Deike Potzel visits the MacGill Summer School at Glenties, Donegal yesterday. Photo: North West Newspix
Friendly call: Germany’s ambassador to Ireland Deike Potzel visits the MacGill Summer School at Glenties, Donegal yesterday. Photo: North West Newspix
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Germany will continue to stand in solidarity with this country as the clock ticks down towards a no-deal Brexit, its ambassador to Ireland has said.

Deike Potzel believes that despite repeated speculation that Ireland will come under pressure to water down the backstop, this will not happen.

In an interview with the Irish Independent at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, Ms Potzel said there is no desire in Berlin to abandon a fellow member of the European Union at some a crucial point in the EU's history.

Asked whether German solidarity could weaken if the next British prime minister insists on changes to the backstop, the ambassador replied: "I do any see any sign for that and I never have.

"Before the chancellor came here to meet the Taoiseach in April there was a lot of speculation that she would tell him exactly that. But she didn't, not at all.

"On the contrary she came out again very clearly pro the position of Ireland and supported you there. I don't see any shifting in that."

Ms Potzel said the German government remains firmly of the view that changes can be made to the political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship but not to the Withdrawal Agreement.

While Brexit is "less of a topic in Germany", she believes people "know and understand the Irish situation".

"There has been a lot of coverage in Germany media. The political class in Germany understands full well what [Brexit] is about and what it means for Ireland and peace on the island," she said.

However, if the UK crashes out on October 31 it is likely to spark an immediate blame game amid travel confusion and economic turmoil.

Even then Ms Potzel argues Germans will understand why Ireland insisted on a legal way of keeping the Border open.

"Everyone who is politically interested, watches the TV news, listens to the radio or goes on online, they understand, they know about the Troubles and the aftermath and difficulties in getting the Good Friday Agreement up and running," she said.

Last year you had 850,000 German tourists over here. They don't just come for the weekend. They tour around and they are interested. They get to know the situation and they take it back home. That's been a good many tourists since the Good Friday Agreement."

The ambassador's comments will be well-received in Government Buildings where Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney are planning how to negotiate with Boris Johnson.

Ms Potzel says she is "delighted" to be in Ireland at a time when relations between the two countries are so warm.

It is only a decade since many here blamed Germany for the harsh austerity doled out in the wake of the economic crash.

The change in fortunes is not lost on the ambassador who says people often "allude" to the austerity as she travels the country.

But she said: "I'm generally very happy to see that so many people, especially women, are very fond of Angela Merkel. There is a lot of appreciation. You are also shown the famous picture which again made headlines 'Angela Merkel thinks we're at work'. It's funny and good."

Ms Potzel adds: "When people talk to me about austerity politics it also gives me an opportunity to explain where we as Germany came from in that time and why we were convinced that was the right way to do it. So I don't have an issue with it.

"I'm happy that I'm here at a time when there are so many positive vibes towards Germany."

She believes there are now huge opportunities for the two countries to forge stronger political and economic links.

And over the remaining two-and-a-half years of her term, Ms Potzel hopes to build "cultural links" so "we can get to know each other better".

Irish Independent

Also in Business