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Merkel opens door to renegotiating UK withdrawal agreement, Macron shuts it again

Thursday, 22 August, 2019 - 17:21

French President Emmanuel Macron has reaffirmed his opposition to renegotiating the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the EU in a meeting with the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Paris on Thursday. The two leaders met at the Elysee Palace. It was the first face-to-face encounter between Macron and Johnson since the latter became prime minister on July 24, although the two leaders had spoken before by telephone.

 “I will be very clear: In the next month we will not find a new withdrawal agreement that is far from the bases already negotiated,” said Macron, adding to comments he made on Wednesday that reopening the agreement was “not option”.

“Renegotiation of the terms currently proposed by the British is not an option that exists, and that has always been made clear by (EU) President Tusk,” Macron said. 

The meeting between Macron and Johnson took place a day after the visit of the British Prime Minister to Berlin, where, unlike Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed to leave the door ajar to the possibility of renegotiating the agreement if Johnson can find a solution to the controversial issue of the backstop within 30 days. 

This controversial provision aims to prevent the re-emergence after Brexit of a border on the island of Ireland that risks reigniting conflict on the island. However; it means keeping the whole of the UK in the Customs Union with the EU until the terms of a post Brexit relationship between the two partners can be agreed on.

“We were confident we could find a solution in two years, but we could also find one in the next 30 days, why not? Then we are one step further in the right direction,” said Merkel. 

“Wir schaffen das,” answered Boris Johnson in German, echoing the famous sentence that the Chancellor made in the midst of the refugee crisis in August 2015. “I am quite satisfied” with this proposal, Boris Johnson told said, adding that the Chancellor’s 30-day deadline was a “blistering timetable.”



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