Boris Johnson’s ‘hot air’ derided by German press ahead of Berlin visit

German newspapers universally scathing of British PM and supportive of Irish concerns

The EU has rebuffed Boris Johnson's demand that it reopen the Brexit divorce deal. Johnson proposed that the backstop be replaced with a "commitment" to implement alternative arrangements as part of a deal on the post-Brexit relationship.

 

If the British ambassador in Berlin dares present prime minister Boris Johnson with the German press review on his arrival on Wednesday, it won’t make for encouraging reading.

The German reviews are in for Johnson and his four-page “Dear Donald” letter to the European Council president – and they’re not kind.

Just as the German newspapers are universally scathing of the British leader, they are consistently supportive of Irish concerns, reminding their readers why Ireland must not be isolated, or sacrificed for a higher EU agenda.

With his “collaborators” remark aimed at pro-Remain Tory MPs still ringing in some German ears – in others’ his EU-Third Reich comparison – many forecast a cool reception from chancellor Angela Merkel.

The centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s best-selling broadsheet, described Johnson’s letter on Monday to Donald Tusk as a targeted provocation”, motivated by the prime minister’s domestic political concerns.

Such concerns should be “immaterial” to the EU, the newspaper added in an editorial.

“What’s more important is that the member states continue to present a united front,” it said, even if some countries had more to lose from a disorderly Brexit – including Germany.

Yielding could not be an option because it would trigger more demands from the “Blonde populist” in Downing Street, and from the White House in the ongoing EU-US trade row, the newspaper said, before concluding: “Blackmail must not be seen to be worthwhile.”

In a caricature it presented Johnson on a barricaded EU castle drawbridge over the caption: “Last-minute panic.”

Greenland

The conservative Die Welt’s London correspondent, Stefanie Bolzen, suggested Johnson’s pre-visit letter to Brussels was the opening of a three-act drama: European confrontation, parliamentary blockade and snap election. Johnson’s priority is not Brexit, she suggested, but outflanking Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party at home.

The left-wing daily Taz had a creative suggestion for the visiting British prime minister: “Finally a Brexit Solution: Can Trump not simply buy England?”

Instead of Greenland, it suggested, US president Donald Trump should add England – without the rest of the UK – to his property portfolio. Looking to Ireland, it added: “The EU cannot simply sacrifice an EU member just to placate the departing British or – we should say – the Tory party and hardcore Brexiteers.”

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine daily was of the same opinion as its left-wing rivals; it described as “nonsense” Johnson’s claim that the backstop – agreed by his predecessor – was “undemocratic”.

“What he is proposing as ‘alternative agreements’ is hot air,” it said.

The paper suggested the Merkel administration, after three years, is growing tired at the time and energy Brexit is absorbing. Instead of all-Brexit talks, the chancellor will nudge the conversation with Johnson on to other pressing problems: Iran, the Middle East, Hong Kong and preparations for the G7 meeting in Biarritz.

Even when Brexit is discussed, Merkel will refuse to be drawn into any talks, the newspaper said, or “hint at concessions that could come at a cost for a member state – in this case Ireland”.

It reminded its readers how “Merkel ...travelled this year personally to Dublin to assure the Irish that no debate over variations in the border question can take place without their participation”.

The Handelsblatt business daily, after canvassing its political sources, said Berlin would “rebuff Johnson” and would allow the visitor “leave again with empty hands”.