Friday, 28 Feb 2020

Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel’s awkward silence as PM arrives for Brexit talks

There was a long, awkward silence as Boris Johnson arrived to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel today in a desperate bid to break the Brexit stalemate.

Upon Johnson's arrival in Berlin, the two leaders sat together to hear a military band play their national anthems.

But there was no small talk between the pair ahead of their difficult dinner meeting this evening.

There was speculation the two leaders sat down rather than standing for the anthems because of Mrs Merkel's recent health issues.

She has been filmed at a number of public appearances visibly shaking – though she has dismissed concerns for her welfare.

As Johnson arrived, there were shouts of “liars” and “stop Brexit” from a small crowd on the other side of the Chancellery gates.

The Prime Minister flew to Berlin in his first foreign trip since entering No10 – underlining the power he feels Europe’s biggest economy wields in Brussels.

He will have lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris tomorrow, where will ramp up calls to strip the Irish Backstop – designed to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic – from the Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Johnson has pledged to quit the EU with out without a deal on October 31.

Mrs Merkel earlier vowed  she would use their talks to discuss how to achieve “the most friction-free British exit from the European Union possible” to protect economic growth.

But a French official said: “The scenario that is now becoming the most likely is the no-deal scenario.

“If the United Kingdom considers that having a backstop is absolutely excluded, that is its right, but in that case it limits the possibility of reaching an agreement.”

The official insisted there was “not the thickness of a cigarette paper” between the French and German positions,

The British minister responsible for no-deal preparations, Michael Gove , said the Government was committed to trying to force the EU to scrap the Backstop.

Speaking during a visit to Holyhead Port in Anglesey, North Wales, Mr Gove said: “We’re going to do everything we can to try to get a deal and Boris is seeing Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron in order to try to see if there’s movement on the European side,.

“But so far we haven’t seen much movement from the EU and its leaders so we have to plan prudently in case we don’t get a deal.”

Brussels insisted Mr Johnson would not undermine the EU’s unity by meeting bloc leaders individually.

European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said: “The EU27 have had from the outset – and continue to have now – one single, united position on Brexit matters.”

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