Boris Johnson puts his feet up in Macron's palace as French leader says too late for new Brexit deal

Boris Johnson places his foot on the table during a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Boris Johnson places his foot on the table during a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have taken a month to embark on his first trip abroad, but he was quick to make himself at home in President Emmanuel Macron's gilded palace, putting his feet up on the furniture.

Never shy to play the clown during his political career, Mr Johnson was filmed joking to the cameras and briefly resting his foot on a coffee table at the Elysee palace, before waving at photographers in the room.

Mr Macron looked on, appearing amused.

The scene took place after Mr Johnson and Mr Macron addressed journalists in the Elysee courtyard on Thursday (Aug 22), during which Mr Macron warned there was not enough time to wholly rewrite Britain's Brexit divorce deal before an Oct 31 deadline.

The Elysee later said the talks had been "constructive" and "thorough".

Mr Johnson met Mr Macron at the Elysee Palace a day after talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who challenged Britain to come up with acceptable alternatives to the agreed safety net provision for the UK-Irish land border.

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. Talks over lunch were constructive, a French official said.


Mr Macron left the door open to Britain seeking a solution to the Irish “backstop”, but said any alternative must respect both the integrity of the EU single market and stability on the divided island of Ireland.  

“I want to be very clear,” he said. “In the month ahead, we will not find a new withdrawal agreement that deviates far from the original.”

On his first trip abroad since entering 10 Downing Street a month ago, Mr Johnson warned Dr Merkel and Mr Macron that they face a potentially disorderly no-deal Brexit on Oct 31 unless the EU does a new deal.

Speaking in The Hague, Dr Merkel said she had not meant to set a deadline when saying on Wednesday that a solution to the Irish border issue could be found within 30 days, but to “highlight the urgency”.  

The British pound, sensitive to the prospect of a "no-deal" exit, rose 1 per cent against both the dollar and the euro on her comments.

“Let’s get Brexit done, let’s get it done sensibly and pragmatically and in the interests of both sides and let’s not wait until Oct 31,” Mr Johnson said.

“Let’s get on now in deepening and intensifying the friendship and partnership between us.”

Mr Johnson, an ardent Brexiter, is betting that the threat of no-deal Brexit turmoil will convince Dr Merkel and Mr Macron that the EU should do a last-minute deal to suit his demands. He has repeated promises to leave on Oct 31 – with or without a deal. He told Mr Macron that he believed it was possible to agree a deal before Oct 31, and that he had been “powerfully encouraged” by what he had heard from Dr Merkel on Wednesday.

Mr Macron insisted Britain’s destiny lay in Mr Johnson’s hands alone. He said the EU did not want a no-deal scenario, but would be ready if it happened.  

The political crisis in London over Brexit has left allies and investors puzzled by a country that for decades seemed a confident pillar of Western economic and political stability

Many investors say a no-deal Brexit would hurt the economies of Britain, the EU and the wider world, roil financial markets and weaken London’s position as the pre-eminent international financial centre.