A way to break the deadlock over the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union has come from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. On February 4, she called for a “creative” compromise to allay concerns over the future of Irish border arrangements.
The UK is due under British and European law to leave the EU in March, but British Prime Minister Theresa May wants last-minute changes to a divorce deal agreed with the EU last November to win over members of parliament in the British parliament.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, May is seeking legally binding changes to the deal to replace the Northern Irish backstop, an insurance policy that aims to prevent the reintroduction of a hard border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.
While Merkel said she did not want the so-called Withdrawal Agreement renegotiated, she added that difficult questions could be resolved with creativity, the strongest hint to date that the EU’s most powerful leader could be prepared to compromise.
“There are definitely options for preserving the integrity of the single market even when Northern Ireland isn’t part of it because it is part of Britain while at the same time meeting the desire to have, if possible, no border controls,” Merkel said.
“To solve this point you have to be creative and listen to each other, and such discussions can and must be conducted,” Merkel said at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.
According to Reuters, Merkel said the Irish backstop issue could be solved as part of a discussion over a separate agreement on the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, offering May a potential way out of the deadlock.
Keen to avoid the economic disruption a no-deal Brexit would bring to Germany’s economy, which slowed sharply last year, Merkel also values Britain as a like-minded partner and wants to keep its security expertise close at hand.
“We can still use the time to perhaps reach an agreement if everyone shows good will,” Merkel said.