In his first foreign trip, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson went to Germany to win it over in his bid for a better Brexit. What he got instead is an ultimatum, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel telling him Britain needs to find a solution to the so-called “Irish border backstop.” She’s giving him 30 days.
CGTN’s Guy Henderson reports.
Received as a statesman, and seemingly rather flattered by it—then an unexpected offer for visiting PM Johnson in Berlin, Germany.
Find an alternative to the issue that divides us most, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel and do it very fast.
“The Irish backstop has always been a fallback position,” said Merkel. “We said we will probably find it in the next two years, but we can also maybe find it in the next 30 days to come.”
Boris Johnson accepted the challenge.
“I am very glad that listening to you Angela that at least the conversations can now begin,” said Prime Minister Johnson. “You’ve set a blistering timetable of 30 days if I understand you correctly. I am more than happy with that.”
It is not a breakthrough yet, because the view in Berlin is still: no more formal negotiations for now. This means those alternatives would only be properly considered in the next round of talks on the future relationship between the UK and the EU after the withdrawal.
In the meantime, what do EU leaders want is the very backstop that Johnson said he’ll never accept.
If alternatives do come though, the next question is – will European leaders see them as workable.
There is still a suspicion that Johnson’s strategy is designed to fail.
“He knew already there would be no leverage for renegotiating the deal,” said German foreign policy expert Olaf Boenhke. “But he needs to present to his domestic base at home that he tried everything and blame the EU for not being more flexible.”
Johnson leaves Germany with more than he might of expected from his first stop before traveling to Paris and then Brussels later this week.