'No major compromise' on Brexit

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 23 Aug 2019

French leader Emmanuel Macron backed the idea of a month of further talks to find a solution to Brexit while ruling out major compromises as he met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for talks yesterday.

Like German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, Macron supported allowing another 30 days to find a solution to the vexed issue of the Irish border which has bedevilled negotiations since 2017.

"We need to try to have a useful month," Macron said alongside Johnson, who insisted that solutions were "readily available" to prevent checkpoints returning in divided Ireland.

But Macron has rejected Johnson's calls to scrap a key arrangement for Ireland negotiated between the EU and former British premier Theresa May. At stake is the so-called "backstop," a provision guaranteeing that border checks will not return between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain.

Johnson considers the backstop to be "anti-democratic" and an affront to British sovereignty because it will require London to keep its regulations aligned with the EU during a transition exit period. "The technical solutions are readily available [to avoid checkpoints] and they have been discussed at great length," Johnson said. "You can have trusted trader schemes, you can have electronic pre-clearing."

The EU argues the backstop is necessary to avoid checkpoints which could lead to a return of fighting on the divided island.

"I want to be very clear. In the coming month, we will not find a new withdrawal agreement that is far from the fundamentals," Macron said.

Since Johnson's ascent to power last month, the chances of a "no deal" Brexit on October 31 have risen, which economists see as likely to wreak economic damage on Britain and the EU.

A senior EU official warned that they "need to take the possibility of a 'no deal' outcome much more seriously than before."

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