Ireland ‘need not worry’ about Germany’s Brexit position– German president

President Higgins meets Angela Merkel and Berlin mayor during second day of state visit

President Michael D. Higgins meets with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin as part of his three-day visit to Germany, the first visit by an Irish head of state to Germany since 2008. Video: Derek Scally

 

German president Frank Walter Steinmeier has insisted that Ireland “need not worry” about Germany in the critical Brexit months ahead because Berlin had “always stood directly at Ireland’s side”. He spoke after welcoming President Michael D Higgins, Sabina Higgins and Tánaiste Simon Coveney to Bellevue Palace with military honours on Wednesday, commencing a three-day state visit to Germany.

“We know the border issue .. is not just a problem for your country, we have to see it as a European [issue] and we will continue to do that, so you can be assured of our ongoing solidarity,” said Mr Steinmeier, insisting Berlin was in “full agreement” with Dublin.

Looking ahead to the Tory leadership contest, the German president added: “I hope there is no increase in the fantasies of people who support a no-deal Brexit, and that those who have secret sympathy for this variant don’t overlook the consequences.”

Mr Higgins said he was “very grateful and reassured” by the position of president Steinmeier and the German federal government on Brexit and the Northern Ireland border. “The solidarity offered to our island at this difficult time is deeply appreciated and will help to contribute to the bedrock of our shared European journey,” he added.

Beyond Brexit

In talks the two men expressed a hope that the new EU institutions would get to work soon on issues beyond Brexit, and insisted Berlin and Dublin would work closely to pursue projects reflecting their common interests on human rights, climate change, migration, the United Nations and multilateralism. Mr Higgins extended an invitation to Mr Steinmeier to Ireland, which he accepted.

After their meeting President Higgins, the first Irish head of state to visit since 2008, travelled to the Brandenburg Gate, a Cold War frontier until 30 years ago. There he was greeted by Berlin’s governing mayor, Michael Müller, and they held talks in Berlin city hall.

The President later laid a wreath at the Neue Wache, the national memorial to victims of war and tyranny. In the afternoon Mr Higgins has courtesy calls with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bundestag president Wolfgang Schäuble.

He attended a lunch held by Bord Bia and, in the afternoon, a meeting with Enterprise Ireland client companies.

A state dinner will be held on Wednesday evening in honour of the President and his wife.

On Thursday, the President will visit Leipzig to deliver a keynote address about the future of Europe and, on Thursday, visits Würzburg and Frankfurt.