German Chancellor Angela Merkel has offered a way to break the Brexit deadlock, calling for a creative compromise to allay concerns over the future of Irish border arrangements.
The United Kingdom is due to leave the EU in just 53 days’ time yet Prime Minister Theresa May wants last-minute changes to a divorce deal agreed last November.
Mrs. May is seeking legally binding changes to the deal to replace the backstop. This is the insurance policy that aims to prevent the reintroduction of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
While Ms Merkel said she did not want the so-called Withdrawal Agreement renegotiated, she added that difficult questions could be resolved with creativity, the strongest hint to date that the EU’s most powerful leader could be prepared to compromise.
“There are definitely options for preserving the integrity of the single market even when Northern Ireland isn’t part of it because it is part of Britain while at the same time meeting the desire to have, if possible, no border controls.
To solve this point, you have to be creative and listen to each other, and such discussions can and must be conducted,” Ms Merkel noted at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.
The German Chancellor said the backstop issue could be solved as part of a discussion over a separate agreement on the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom as this could offer Mrs May a potential way out of the deadlock.
Ms Merkel’s stance on Brexit is driven by an eagerness to preserve the integrity of the EU and its internal market, which are crucial to Germany’s post-war identity and prosperity, while also keeping Britain close to the bloc even after it leaves.
Keen to avoid the economic disruption a no-deal Brexit would bring to Germany’s economy, which slowed sharply last year, Ms Merkel also values Britain as a like-minded partner and wants to keep its security expertise close at hand.