Britain wants to do a swift Brexit deal but the “undemocratic” Irish border backstop must be axed in full to prevent a no-deal exit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday.
More than three years after the United Kingdom voted to quit the European Union, it is still unclear on what terms – or indeed whether – the bloc’s second largest economy will leave the club it joined in 1973.
Johnson, a Brexiteer who won the premiership a month ago, is betting that the threat of “no-deal” Brexit turmoil will convince Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron that the EU should do a last-minute deal to suit his demands.
“There is a ample scope to do a deal,” Johnson told reporters at the German Chancellery in Berlin. “I just want to be absolutely clear with all our German friends and with the German government that we in the UK want a deal.”
“We do need that backstop removed,” Johnson said beside Merkel. “But if we can do that then I’m absolutely certain we can move forward together.”
But with just over 10 weeks left until the scheduled departure, the EU has repeatedly said it will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement struck by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, and that it will stand behind member state Ireland.
As Johnson arrived, protesters outside the Chancellery gates shouted “Stop Brexit”.
Merkel has promised to discuss “practical solutions” to the Irish border insurance policy or “backstop” that Johnson says is unacceptable – but she said the Withdrawal Agreement would not be reopened.
Ahead of his first foreign trip as prime minister, Johnson said the EU was being “a bit negative”, but that a deal could be done. If not, he said, the United Kingdom would leave without one.