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Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street
Image: picture-alliance/empics/J. Brady

Merkel invites Johnson amid Brexit differences

July 26, 2019

Chancellor Angela Merkel has invited the UK's new prime minister, Boris Johnson, to Berlin. No date has been set for the visit, which could include difficult talks on Johnson's Brexit plans.


Britain's new prime minister, Boris Johnson, held telephone talks on Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Brexit and bilateral relations, with Merkel inviting Johnson to visit Berlin soon and wishing him luck in his new job, the spokeswoman for the chancellor said.

Such a visit could see some thorny talks, with Johnson insisting on the renegotiation of a withdrawal agreement drawn up while his predecessor Theresa May was prime minister. EU leaders, including Merkel, remain adamant that no further negotiation can take place. May's deal failed three times to make it through the British Parliament.

According to a spokesman for the British prime minister, Johnson reiterated his position to Merkel that the only way to reach a deal was to abolish the so-called Irish backstop, a provision aimed at preventing a "hard" border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

The spokesman said that in light of the three-time parliamentary rejection of May's deal, Johnson had told Merkel that without the abolition of the backstop, "the UK must fully prepare for the alternative — which is to leave the EU without a deal on October 31." EU negotiators have said the Irish backstop is an essential part of the deal.

Read more: German politicians in two minds about Boris Johnson

Pledges and threats

Johnson, who took office this week, has promised to take Britain out of the EU by the end of October with or without a deal. He also threatened to withhold a "divorce" payment of £39 billion (€43.5 billion, $49 billion) that May agreed to in the case of a "no-deal Brexit." The money would be to cover commitments made by the UK while an EU member.

EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger was quoted on Friday by the German daily Tagesspiegel as saying that the credit standing of the United Kingdom would be threatened if Johnson followed through on his threat.

Many in the British business community and beyond have voiced fears about the damage a no-deal Brexit could inflict on the British economy. On Friday, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders wrote a letter to Johnson saying that leaving the EU without a deal "would result in huge tariff costs and disruption that would threaten production."

Read more: Will Brexit be worse for women? 

tj/jm (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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