August 22, 2019
Emmanuel Macron has made clear to Boris Johnson that the EU will not tear up the existing Brexit deal, warning the guarantee of an Irish backstop is “indispensable”.
Emmanuel Macron Warns Boris Johnson Of Indispensable Irish Backstop Amid New Brexit Deal Hopes
The Prime Minister appeared optimistic on Thursday night after a two-day visit taking in Paris and Berlin that saw him hold crunch meetings with the French president and German chancellor Angela Merkel, and apparently wringing out compromises from the European Union.
His upbeat mood was fuelled by a 30-day timescale floated by Merkel for a new deal and Macron leaving open the possibility of making some changes to the withdrawal agreement secured by Theresa May.
But Macron, who conceded he can be seen as the EU’s “hard boy”, said the withdrawal agreement and Irish backstop - the major stumbling block – are “not just technical constraints or legal quibbling”.
He added they are “genuine, indispensable guarantees” to preserve stability in Ireland and the integrity of the single market.
“We will not find a new withdrawal agreement within 30 days that will be very different from the existing one,” the French president said in comments that were interpreted as both a sign of flexibility and an indication that nothing major would change.
Johnson has demanded the backstop – a contingency plan aimed at ensuring a soft border with Ireland in all circumstances – should be scrapped.
Merkel, too, sought to play down the importance of the 30-day period she had referred to on Wednesday, saying it was merely “an allegory for being able to do it in a short period of time”.
In any case, the financial markets took the meetings as a positive sign. The pound, sensitive to the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, rose 1% against both the dollar and the euro on Merkel’s comments.Johnson said there were “positive noises” from Merkel about alternatives to the backstop and hailed the German’s ”‘can-do’ spirit”.
The PM cited the so-called ‘trusted trader’ schemes and electronic pre-clearing for goods as ways to avoid a hard Irish border.
The two leaders were speaking at a press conference ahead of their formal talks at the Elysee Palace.
It was in the grand surroundings of the presidential residence that Johnson was pictured putting his foot on a table. The image swiftly prompted criticism online.
However, footage of the incident later suggested the brief gesture was a shared joke, with the prime minister appearing to pose for the cameras as the pair laughed.
The relaxed atmosphere between the pair was in contrast to comments overnight from the French leader, who had suggested a no-deal Brexit could come at the cost of “a historic vassalisation of Britain”.
Macron’s stark warning about the UK’s place on the world stage after Brexit came ahead of the G7 summit in Biarritz starting on Saturday.
At Johnson’s debut at the global event, the PM is expected to meet Donald Trump, who has previously been an isolated figure at such gatherings.
On Wednesday, Macron warned that the UK would be a “junior partner” in its relationship with Washington if it sought to strenghten transatlantic links after a hard Brexit.
“Can the cost for Britain of a hard Brexit – because Britain will be the main victim – be offset by the United States of America? No,” Macron said.Related... It All Kicked Off After Boris Johnson Put Foot On Table During Meeting With Emmanuel Macron Macron Warns Johnson: France Will Be 'Hard Boy' Of EU In Fresh Brexit Talks Macron Taunts Johnson: UK Could Become Trump's 'Vassal' After No-Deal Brexit
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