BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak to journalists at the Chancellery on Wednesday.—AFP
BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak to journalists at the Chancellery on Wednesday.—AFP

BERLIN: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday that the UK “cannot accept” the current terms of their Brexit deal to leave the European Union.

“Clearly we cannot accept the current withdrawal agreement, arrangements which either divide the UK or lock us into the regulatory and trading arrangements of the EU... without the UK having any say on those matters,” he said in Berlin.

Johnson is seeking to convince Merkel, and then French President Emmanuel Macron whom he visits on Thursday, to renegotiate elements of the UK’s impending divorce from the bloc, including the so-called Ireland backstop plan — something the EU leaders had already ruled out.

“So we need that backstop removed, but if we can do that I am absolutely sure we can move forward together,” Johnson told reporters.Britain wants to do a swift Brexit deal but the “undemocratic” Irish border backstop must be axed in full to prevent a no-deal exit, Johnson told the German chancellor.

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.

Johnson, a Brexiteer who won the premiership a month ago, is betting that the threat of “no-deal” Brexit turmoil will convince Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron that the EU should do a last-minute deal to suit his demands.

“There is a ample scope to do a deal,” Johnson told reporters at the German Chancellery in Berlin. “I just want to be absolutely clear with all our German friends and with the German government that we in the UK want a deal.”

“We do need that backstop removed,” Johnson said beside Merkel. “But if we can do that then I’m absolutely certain we can move forward together.”

But with just over 10 weeks left until the scheduled departure, the EU has repeatedly said it will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement struck by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, and that it will stand behind member state Ireland.

As Johnson arrived, protesters outside the Chancellery gates shouted “Stop Brexit”.

Merkel has promised to discuss “practical solutions” to the Irish border insurance policy or “backstop” that Johnson says is unacceptable — but she said the Withdrawal Agreement would not be reopened.

Ahead of his first foreign trip as prime minister, Johnson said the EU was being “a bit negative”, but that a deal could be done. If not, he said, the United Kingdom would leave without one.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019