Merkel will ‘personally inform herself’ about Border during Dublin visit
German chancellor to hold a round-table meeting with group from Border areas
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the media in Neudietendorf near Erfurt, Germany, yesterday. Photograph: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is meeting German chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin on Thursday where the two will discuss the possible second extension of article 50 requested by British prime minister Theresa May.
Dr Merkel is also visiting Ireland to “personally inform herself” about the implications for the Border from Britain’s pulling out of the European Union, her party colleague and German MEP David McAllister has said.
“Angela Merkel has dealt with the Irish border issue for many months,” he said.
“She has under all circumstances repeatedly made clear that her goal remains to prevent the no deal scenario and she will fight until the last hour to prevent a no deal Brexit.
“It is important for the EU to protect citizens’ rights, the integrity of the Single Market but also to keep the Good Friday Agreement alive.”
Mr McAllister told RTÉ Radio the withdrawal agreement between London and Brussels will not be renegotiated but “we could show some flexibility when it comes to the political declaration” on the future of the EU/UK relationship.
“It could be amended if that would help resolve the situation and there are range of options varying from a customs union to a Norway-type arrangement, but it is now up to British side to decide,” he added.
“The ball is definitely now in the British court and it is 30 seconds to 12.”
The EU is “fine” with granting the UK a short extension on leaving the bloc to get the withdrawal agreement through the Houses of Parliament, but any extension beyond May 23rd is “problematic”, he said, referring to imminent European elections.
“We cannot compromise the functioning of our institutions and under all circumstances we must make sure the European elections are not legally challenged.”
Germans, like the Irish, “deeply regret” Brexit, Mr McAllister said.
“I personally believe that Brexit is a tragedy. It is a horrible mistake with severe consequences for the United Kingdom, however we have to accept the British decision to leave our family of nations and now we just have to wait and see what happens.”
The EU needs a “clear, binding and realistic statement” from London on how to proceed “otherwise a withdrawal without an agreement remains possible,” he warned.
On Wednesday, Mr Varadkar told TDs that while many Border checks and procedures required after a no-deal Brexit could be done remotely, checks on animals could only be done physically by vets.
He said that options were being examined by officials, though senior sources said that talks with the European Commission on no-deal Border preparations had intensified behind closed doors in recent weeks.
Dr Merkel will hold a round-table meeting with a group of people from the Border areas, including businesspeople and those with direct experience of the Northern conflict.
German officials described the chancellor’s visit to Dublin as a show of solidarity with the Government amid ongoing Brexit chaos in London.
“This is about peace in Ireland,” Dr Merkel said. “We often say Europe is a question of war and peace but [IN IRELAND]we can see that it is a question of violence or non-violence.”
Ahead of her visit, the German leader insisted the onus remains on Mrs May to present a solution to the Brexit impasse. Dr Merkel has promised to engage “to the last hour” for a constructive agreement with London, because it was in Germany’s interest.
German officials said they were engaging with their Irish counterparts on the Border question as part of a wider debate on the future of the EU27 and the integrity of the single market.
On Tuesday, French president Emmanuel Macron expressed wariness of granting further extensions to the UK departure date, particularly without clear reasons and goals. The chancellor agrees that an extension is not a given, and London must explain why it is needed. - additional reporting Pat Leahy, Denis Staunton and Derek Scally.