Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 January 2020

Emmanuel Macron says there is no time to renegotiate Brexit deal

Mr Macron held Brexit talks with Boris Johnson on Thursday

France's President Emmanuel Macron and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson have reaffirmed their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal. Reuters
France's President Emmanuel Macron and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson have reaffirmed their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal. Reuters

French president Emmanuel Macron has said that 30 days is not enough time to renegotiate a new Brexit divorce deal ahead of a lunch with the UK's prime minister Boris Johnson.

German chancellor Angela Merkel raised hopes that a negotiated departure from the EU might still be possible when Mr Johnson travelled to Berlin on Wednesday by challenging the new British prime minister to come up with a solution to the contentious issue of the "backstop" within 30 days.

Standing alongside Mr Johnson in Paris on Thursday, Mr Macron said: "What Chancellor Merkel said yesterday, and which is in line with the substance of our talks, is that we need visibility in 30 days.

"Nobody is going to wait until October 31 without trying to find a good solution."

Ms Merkel later clarified that she was not setting Mr Johnson a deadline of 30 days, adding that he could have until October 31, the date the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.

"I said that what one can achieve in three or two years can also be achieved in 30 days. Better said, one must say that one can also achieve it by October 31," she told a news conference on Thursday.

Mr Johnson, who became British leader last month, has promised to change the backstop, an insurance policy which aims to keep an open border on the island of Ireland. The backstop is part of the EU withdrawal deal negotiated over 19 months by his predecessor Theresa May and Brussels, which was rejected by the UK parliament three times.

The former Mayor of London has said that if he is unable to secure changes to the deal, he will take the UK out of the EU “do or die” without a deal on October 31.

Mr Macron said that while there was not enough time to renegotiate a new Brexit deal "very different from the existing one", he called for a "useful" month of talks to come up with some solutions.

But he added that the backstop was "indispensable" for preserving peace and frictionless trade on the Irish border.

“We have to respect what was negotiated,” Mr Macron said.

After the meeting, an official in Mr Macron's office said the talks had been "constructive".

While Mr Johnson tweeted a picture of himself with the French president, saying he wanted to deepen and intensify "the friendship and the partnership between our nations".

Brexiters including the prime minister want the backstop changed because, if it was ever implemented, it would keep the UK tied to many of the EU’s customs and trading rules. The UK would not be allowed to withdraw from the backstop unilaterally.

Mr Johnson said he had been encouraged by talks with Ms Merkel and that there would be no checks or border controls on the island of Ireland.

"The technical solutions are readily available and they have been discussed at great length," Mr Johnson said. "You can have trusted trader schemes, you can have electronic pre-clearing."

However, Northern Ireland’s police chief Simon Byrne said earlier on Thursday that technology would not be enough to keep an open border.

"The reality of using technology or some form of hard check point in the border area is simply just not practical. There are over 300 crossings that we'd have to police on a daily basis to make that effective," the Chief Constable told the BBC.

An official in Mr Macron's office said on Wednesday no-deal was now the most likely option, according to France, and that the positions of the country were aligned with those of Germany and the other EU states.

Updated: August 22, 2019 07:49 PM