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Europe

Boris Johnson in Paris for Brexit, Iran talks with Macron

media Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool/File Photo

France's President Emmanuel Macron has held a joint press conference with his British counterpart Boris Johnson in which he insisted the Irish backstop mechanism was needed to protect the Northern Ireland peace deal and the European single market.

 

 

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in Paris a day after his official visit to Berlin offered a glimmer of hope that an agreement could be reached to avoid a chaotic "no deal" Brexit.

On the second leg of his first foreign visit since taking office, Johnson is meeting with president Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee palace to press home his message that elements of the UK's impending divorce from the European Union must be renegotiated.

"I want to make it absolutely clear to you and the French people that I want a deal," he told Macron, referring to the president by his first name.

Johnson was clearly buoyed by his meeting with Angela Merkel yesterday, and during the press conference he referred to the German chancellor's willingness to be practical. This was a direct reference to the fact that Merkel challenged Johnson to find a solution to resolving the Irish border issue within 30 days.

But Macron didn't appear to be in the mood to compromise on the issue, telling Johnson, "the key features of this agreement, such as the Irish backstop, are not mere technical obstacles," adding that "they are indispensable guarantees for preserving stability in Ireland and the integrity of the single market."

At the weekend, all three European leaders will meet US President Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of both Brexit and Johnson, and the leaders of Canada, Italy and Japan at a G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.

The talks come after Merkel on Wednesday told Johnson in Berlin that an agreement could even be possible within "30 days" for Britain to leave the EU, if a solution could be found to the thorny issue of the Irish border.

The British prime minister has been adamant that he will not accept the "backstop" border plan agreed under his predecessor Theresa May and warned that the UK will exit the EU on 31 October, even at the cost of economic turmoil.

What the backstop?

The backstop is a mechanism to avoid border checks between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, part of the UK, with checkpoints there removed as part of a 1998 peace deal on the divided island.

But critics have derided the plan because it would temporarily keep Britain in the EU customs union.

In Berlin, Johnson again stressed his view that the backstop "has grave, grave defects for a sovereign, democratic country like the UK" and added that the provision "plainly has to go".

Merkel said that the mechanism was always meant as a "fallback position" to protect the "integrity of the single market" for the period in which the other 27 EU members and London define their future relationship.

In the search for a solution, she said, "we have said we would probably find it in the next two years, but maybe we can do it in the next 30 days, why not? Then we are one step further in the right direction".

Johnson told Merkel that he welcomed the "very blistering timetable of 30 days," adding that "I'm more than happy with that".

He added: "I just want to be absolutely clear with all our German friends and the German government that we in the UK want a deal, we seek a deal, and I believe we can do that."

"Wir schaffen das," he quipped, borrowing Merkel's signature German phrase on managing the 2015 refugee influx that translates to "we can do it".

Johnson, in a "do-or-die" gamble, has insisted Britain will leave the EU on 31 October , no matter whether it has ironed out remaining differences with the bloc or not.

Ahead of his Berlin visit, Johnson reaffirmed in a tweet that "we're going to leave the EU on 31 October and make this country the best in the world to live in". The message was adorned with a Union flag.

(with AFP)

 
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