Germans 'not thrilled’ about Johnson's Brexit letter to EU
August 21, 2019 | 1:34 PM
United Kingdom PM Boris Johnson. File photo

Berlin: Ahead of newly-elected United Kingdom PM Boris Johnson’s maiden foreign visit, since taking office, to Germany, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany’s stance towards the backstop for Brexit will not change despite Johnson’s four-page letter asking the EU to drop the Irish backstop.

“The letter to the president of the European council is not a serious offer, and Boris Johnson knows it,” said Norbert Röttgen, an ally of the chancellor who heads the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

In a four-page letter published on Monday night, Johnson called on the EU to scrap the backstop, calling the last-resort solution for a seamless border on the island of Ireland anti-democratic and “inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK as a state.”

The British Prime Minister’s first official proposal to the EU since taking office last month has been met with responses ranging from indifference to incredulity in the German capital, with senior officials saying it showed Westminster’s debate on the withdrawal agreement to be stuck on the same arguments of the so-called Brady amendment, which the EU rejected in January.

“The British prime minister starts his letter by saying he is personally committed to finding an agreement, but there is no sign in the rest of the letter that this is actually the case,” said Röttgen, a delegate for the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). “To suggest the backstop could weaken the Good Friday agreement – that’s strong stuff.

“If Johnson really wanted to achieve something on his visits to Paris and Berlin, he would have been well advised against writing this letter.”

Johnson will receive military honours outside Angela Merkel’s chancellory at 6.00pm CET on Wednesday, followed by a meeting in which the two leaders will discuss bilateral and European policy issues.

“Merkel is politically and emotionally well inclined towards the British, and her willingness to maintain friendly relations between the two countries will be on display on Wednesday,” said Röttgen. “But the extent to which the Johnson government is prepared to humiliate itself for a trade deal with the USA has not gone unnoticed in Berlin.”

A failure to reach an agreement over the terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union would lead to the UK crashing out of the bloc on 31 October.

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