Germany ‘rock-solid’ on backstop, says minister

Katarina Barley made the comments on a visit to the Border region in north Co Louth

German justice minister Katarina Barley (right) with Labour senator Ged Nash visiting the border region in north Co Louth on February 1st Photograph: Michelle Devane/PA Wire

German justice minister Katarina Barley (right) with Labour senator Ged Nash visiting the border region in north Co Louth on February 1st Photograph: Michelle Devane/PA Wire

 

The German government will stand up to pressure from its own car manufacturers to compromise on the backstop, the German justice minister has said.

Katarina Barley said the German government would stand firm in the face of demands from the major car makers, who rely on easy access to the British market, to strike a deal.

The German auto industry has warned that the consequences of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on March 29th would be fatal.

Ms Barley said the backstop was not open for renegotiation and that there was “rock-solid” backing for the withdrawal agreement within the German government.

“You can be absolutely sure that the German government backs the backstop idea and the agreement. Absolutely,” she said.

“There is rock-solid backing for this agreement.”

When asked would the German government be forced to bow to pressure from car manufacturers to compromise on the backstop and strike a deal, Ms Barley said: “There is no way that this [the withdrawal agreement] can be negotiated again.”

Border visit

Ms Barley made the comments during a visit to the Border in north Co Louth on Friday afternoon.

She said it is only from hearing the stories of 30 years of violence and standing where “bombs blew up” that “you get a real feeling of how important the Good Friday Agreement is”.

She said it was up to the British government to put forward a solution to the current impasse.

“It was the British decision to leave the EU so it’s their obligation also to propose how it will work.

“We have an agreement and we stick to this agreement.

“If there are other propositions by the British government to be made they may make them but the backstop is something that will not be negotiated, definitely not.”

She added: “If they want to make any change then they have to have very concrete ideas and propositions.”

But Ms Barley said she couldn’t see this happening.

“I can only see and hear what they do not want and that is not enough,” she said.

Ms Barley was accompanied on her tour of the Border by Labour party leader Brendan Howlin, Labour senator Ged Nash and SDLP Brexit spokeswoman Claire Hanna.

German justice minister Katarina Barley (left): ‘You can be absolutely sure that the German government backs the backstop idea and the [withdrawl] agreement. Absolutely’ Photograph: Michelle Devane/PA Wire
German justice minister Katarina Barley (left): ‘You can be absolutely sure that the German government backs the backstop idea and the [withdrawl] agreement. Absolutely’ Photograph: Michelle Devane/PA Wire

Group meetings

Ms Barley also met with Border Communities Against Brexit, the Centre for Cross Border Studies, and the Dundalk and Drogheda Chambers of Commerce during her visit.

Mr Howlin said it was very important to have such a senior German minister visit the Border region and meet with Border communities.

“[The Border] has to be seen to be fully comprehend and understood,” he said.

“For that reason I would encourage not only our European colleagues to do that . . . but our British colleagues who speak authoritatively about a border they’ve never seen.”

The Wexford TD said the withdrawal agreement was the only deal on the table.

Ms Hanna praised the German minister for “coming and seeing first hand” the complexity of the border issue.

The Belfast MLA said: “It almost takes you to come to a place like this to see just how intertwined we are north and south and that it isn’t about policing a line so to speak it’s about all of the knock on effects it has on businesses and communities on both sides of the border.” – PA