THE HAGUE (AFP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday (Aug 22) that Britain could have until the day of its scheduled EU departure to avoid a chaotic no-deal Brexit, clarifying that she had not set London a 30-day deadline.
Mrs Merkel had appeared to lay down the 30-day rule to solve the vexed issue of the Irish border “backstop” when she met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Berlin on Wednesday.
“I said that what you want to do in three or two years, you can do in 30 days – or rather, you would have to say: you can do it by October 31,” Merkel said at a press conference in The Hague with Dutch premier Mark Rutte.
“So it’s not about 30 days, but they were symbolic for the fact that you can do it in a short period of time.”
Mrs Merkel said she was giving the new date “because Great Britain said they would like to leave the European Union on 31 October.”
“And until then we have to work on it – work on it if the will exists on both sides.”
The German leader said the aim was to find a regime that both respects the two-decade old peace agreement in the British province of Northern Ireland “and at the same time we can ensure the integrity of the (EU’s) internal market.”
In Berlin on Wednesday night, Mrs Merkel had appeared to give London its biggest glimmer of hope in weeks when she said that “we have said we would probably find it in the next two years, but maybe we can do it in the next 30 days, why not?” At stake is the so-called “backstop”, which is a provision guaranteeing that border checks will not return between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain.
Mr Johnson considers the backstop to be “anti-democratic” and an affront to British sovereignty because it will require London to keep its regulations aligned with the EU during a transition exit period.
The pound sterling rose one percent Thursday on Brexit optimism, largely on the back of Mrs Merkel’s comments and French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron backing the idea of further Brexit talks.
Mr Macron however ruled out major compromises as he met Johnson in Paris.