il faut bruler boris tout entier

Macron says there will be no new Brexit withdrawal agreement within 30 days
Andrew Sparrow, Groan, Aug 21 2019

Macron speaks before their meeting. Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Emmanuel Macron starts. He says he is pleased to welcome Boris Johnson to Paris. But they have spoken on the phone already. He says the relationship between the two countries is central and immutable. He says it’s a privileged relationship. The two countries have a long history. They have treaties that go beyond the EU. He says the engagement of both countries has always been constant. He says, inevitably, they will talk about Brexit. He says Johnson knows his position. He says he regrets the choice by the UK to leave. If he had been a British voter, he would have voted to stay. But the decision must be implemented, he says. He says he wants to ensure the EU is protected. The EU has negotiated an agreement with the UK. It is not up to an one EU country to renegotiate it. The key elements are indispensable. It is about preserving peace in Northern Ireland, and about preserving the integrity of the single market. He says, as a friend and ally of the UK, it is up to the UK alone to decide its destiny. France is preparing for all eventualities, he says. He says, no matter what, the future of the UK cannot but be European. Our geography speaks for itself. Macron ends by saying again how pleased he is to welcome Johnson.

Boris Johnson starts with Brexit. He says he wants to make it clear that he wants a deal, and he thinks he can get a deal. He says he was “powerfully encouraged” by his talks with Angela Merkel last night. But it is vital, if you have a referendum, that you do what the voters voted for. He says the UK will come out with a deal or without one. He says the UK-French relationship is extraordinary. Their troops are side by side in countries like Mali and Estonia. And it was FUKUS who responded when Pres Assad (supposedly) used CW in Syria. He says the UK and France will work hand in glove at the G7 on issues like climate change and the environment. Whatever happens with Brexit, it is their joint ambition to deepen the UK/French relationship. He says French buses run on London roads. And TGV, the French trains, run on steel made in the UK. And London is one of the cities with the biggest French populations on earth, he says. Let’s get Brexit done, and let’s get it done “sensibly and pragmatically”, he says.

Question to Johnson: Isn’t a no-deal Brexit a bit of a con? Johnson says a great deal of work has already been done to ensure that the transition on Oct 31 will be as smooth as it can be. He says he wants to ensure all the remaining necessary work gets done before the end of October.
Question to Macron: Angela Merkel showed some flexibility in Berlin last night. Shouldn’t you too? Macron says the Irish backstop has been negotiated, and it is an important element that guarantees stability in Ireland and the integrity of the single market. As for flexibility, these two goals must be met. He says the EU has to guarantee to its citizens that its market will be controlled. Johnson intervenes. He says under no circumstances will the UK government impose checks at the border. He understands the EU desire to protect the integrity of the single market. But he thinks that can be protected, while allowing the UK to leave.

Macron says Angela Merkel said yesterday there would have to be “visibility” within 30 days as to what an alternative to the backstop might look like. People would not wait until Oct 31 for a solution, he says. He says Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, will be involved in talks. He says, if there is goodwill on both sides, there could be a solution. He says he is presented as the hard man in the negotiations. But he wants a solution. However, he has been clear that we will not find a new withdrawal agreement within 30 days that will be very different to the existing one. He says the agreement could be amended, though. Johnson says he admires Merkel’s “can do” spirit. He says he thinks solutions to the backstop problem are available. He repeats the point about how the UK will not impose checks at the border.

Question to Johnson: What is the alternative to the backstop? Johnson says the reporter should read “an excellent paper” produced by Greg Hands and other MPs proposing alternatives. That is a reference to The Alternative Arrangements Commission Report. Johnson ends by saying: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” And that’s it.

Here we go again. Just as when Boris Johnson met Angela Merkel in Berlin last night, his opening public exchanges with Emmanuel Macron were warm and considerably more friendly than some of their comments about each other in the past, but there was nothing in what Macron said to suggest that a solution to the backstop quandary is any closer than it has been for months. Macron suggested that he was unhappy about being cast as the “hard man” in the process. But he was also very clear that a mechanism was needed to protect the Northern Ireland peace process and the integrity of the single market, and he said any version of the withdrawal agreement drawn up by Johnson within the next 30 days that might be acceptable to the EU would be much the same as the one already on the table. There are polite ways of saying no, and harsh ways of saying no, and Merkel and Macron have been charm personified, in their public remarks, at least, but four weeks ago Johnson was telling Merkel and Macron that the backstop would have go for a Brexit deal to be possible. This week they are telling him that on the fundamentals of what the backstop is all about, they are not willing to budge. For obvious reasons, Johnson is keen to put a positive gloss on all of this, telling journalists at the Q&A that he came away from Berlin “powerfully encouraged,” but as students of Johnson’s journalistic career know all too well, his analysis of developments in the EU has never been noted for its accuracy …

And this what some journalists and commentators are saying about the Q&A. From AFP’s Adam Plowright

From the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn

From my colleague Dan Sabbagh

From Barron’s Group’s Pierre Briançon

From the Institute for Government’s Georgina Wright

Here are the main points from what Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Boris Johnson said in their opening statements and Q&A. Macron said the key features of the Irish backstop were “indispensable.” He said:

I would like to say that the key elements of this agreement, including the Irish backstop, are not just technical constraints or legal quibbling, but indeed genuine, indispensable guarantees to preserve stability in Ireland, to preserve the integrity of the single market which is the foundation of the European project.

He said that any new version of the withdrawal agreement proposed by the UK would have to be very similar to the existing one for it to be acceptable to the EU. He said:

We will not find a new withdrawal agreement within 30 days that will be very different from the existing one.

He identified the “two goals” of the backstop that were non-negotiable. He said:

The Irish backstop, as we call it, is a point that has been negotiated in the context of the geography of Ireland and the past political situation. So it is an important element that allows us first of all to guarantee the stability in Ireland and also the integrity of the single market. These are our two goals. When you talk about flexibility, well let me be very clear with you, these two goals have to be met. We therefore have to find a solution that guarantees the integrity of the single market. We have to be able to guarantee to companies, to citizens and consumers in Europe that comply with the rules of the EU and whatever comes from a market that is not in the EU is controlled.

He backed what Angela Merkel said yesterday about the need for the UK to come up with an alternative to the backstop within 30 days. But he played down the idea that this amounted to a new timetable, arguing that in practice it would be impossible to wait until the end of October before deciding if a no-deal Brexit could be avoided. He explained:

What Angela Merkel said yesterday and which is very much in line with the discussions we have had since the very beginning is that we need visibility in 30 days. I believe that this also matches the goal of Prime Minister Johnson. No-one will wait until Oct 31 to find the right solution.

He said it would be possible to find a solution by the middle of next month if there was goodwill on both sides.

We should all together be able to find something smart within 30 days if there is goodwill on both sides.

He also said the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, could be involved in finding an answer “without totally reshuffling the withdrawal agreement. He played down the idea that he was the hard man in the Brexit process. He explained:

I’ve always been presented as the hard boy in the group but it’s just that I have always been clear: a choice was made and we cannot just ignore it. We have to implement a decision taken by the British people.

Johnson said that he had been “powerfully encouraged” by his talks in Berlin last night about the prospects of reaching a deal.

I want to make it absolutely clear to you, Emmanuel, to the French people, that of course I want a deal. I think we can get a deal, and a good deal. I was powerfully encouraged by our conversations last night in Berlin with our mutual friends. I know that with energy and creativity and application we can find a way forward for all our businesses and our citizens. It was very interesting to hear some of the positive noises that we’re now hearing about the ways that can be done.

Macron tells Johnson Brexit backstop is indispensable
Angelique Chrisafis, Groan, Aug 22 2019

Emmanuel Macron has described the Irish backstop as “indispensable” to a Brexit deal and urged Boris Johnson to set out his proposed alternatives as soon as possible, as he met the British prime minister in Paris on Thursday. The French president told Johnson that the EU would like “visibility” on London’s concrete proposals for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU within a month, echoing language used by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel on Wednesday. Macron said he stood united with Merkel that the clock was ticking and that it was not possible to wait until the last minute to find a solution. He said the EU’s negotiator, Michel Barnier, could be involved in finding an answer, “without totally reshuffling the withdrawal agreement,“ concluding:

We should all together be able to find something smart within 30 days, if there is goodwill on both sides.

Merkel insisted on Thursday that she had not given the UK a strict 30-day deadline, but instead wanted to highlight how short time was before the UK’s planned exit date of Oct 31. Any new proposals to deal with the issue of the Northern Ireland border should fit into the existing framework withdrawal agreement already negotiated, Macron said. Johnson has repeatedly said that the backstop must go in order to avoid a no-deal exit. He argues that it could leave the UK tied to the EU indefinitely. But Macron said that the backstop was both an indispensable guarantee for the stability of Ireland and means of protecting the integrity of the European single market, and that any new UK ideas had to respect that. Johnson arrived at the Élysée Palace in a Range Rover decorated with UK flags. Macron is keenly aware of the prime minister’s long track record of French-bashing for a domestic audience, but both men were at pains to show their close working relationship. Johnson repeatedly called Macron “Emmanuel”, and smiled at him, only shrugging and grimacing slightly and reaching into his jacket for a pen to amend his speech as he stood listening to Macron say the Irish backstop was an “essential guarantee.” At a joint news conference on Wednesday in Berlin with Johnson, Merkel appeared to suggest that a solution to the sticking point of the Irish backstop could be found in the next 30 days. But on Thursday she said:

It is not about 30 days. The 30 days were meant as an example to highlight the fact that we need to achieve it in a short time.

Macron was careful to say that if no concrete solution based on the current withdrawal agreement were found in the coming month, it would be the UK’s sole responsibility. He stressed:

It would mean that the problem is deeper, more political, a British political problem. Then there will be a political choice to be made by the prime minister, it won’t fall to us.

Macron appeared to have the upper hand as he smiled warmly while telling Johnson:

On Brexit my position is clear, and I know how much that occupies your days and your nights.

This appeared to be a reference to Downing Street rushing to respond on Wednesday night to Macron’s comments to reporters in Paris that Johnson’s written request to renegotiate the UK’s exit and scrap the backstop was “not an option.” Macron was even more tactile than usual with a foreign leader, repeatedly patting Johnson on the back and shoulder. Macron grinned:

I’ve always been portrayed as the toughest in the group.

Political commentators in France suspect Johnson of wanting to frame France as the bad cop to blame for any no deal. Macron is determined to avoid taking any blame for what he calls the UK’s internal political crisis over Brexit. Macron said he believed the British people’s sovereign decision must be carried out, warning against “democracies suffering lack of efficiency and lack of clarity.” He reminded Johnson that he stood firmly together with Merkel with a united position and that it was not up to any one single EU member state to negotiate. Johnson tried to strike a positive note, saying that he admired the “can-do spirit” expressed by Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday. He said:

Let’s get Brexit done, let’s get it done sensibly and pragmatically and in the interests of both sides and let’s not wait until Oct 31. Let’s get on now in deepening and intensifying the friendship and partnership between us. When you look at the border with Northern Ireland … under no circumstances will the UK government be instituting, imposing checks or controls of any kind at that border. We think there are ways of protecting the integrity of the single market and allowing the UK to exit from the EU, all and entire and perfect as it were.

EU boxtop calls Boris Johnson ‘no modern-day Churchill’ in ‘deliberate personal attack’
Kate Buck, Sun (UK), Aug 22 2019

An EU boxtop has slammed Boris Johnson describing him as “no modern-day Winston Churchill” and an “unelected” Prime Minister. The Prime Minister’s team have hit back after Irish EU commissioner Phil Hogan also accused Johnson of “gambling with the Irish peace process.” Hogan also told the PM that a no-deal Brexit would have “serious consequences” and create a “foul atmosphere” hindering the UK’s ability to negotiate a favourable trade agreement with the bloc. Johnson’s team has accused the EU of “deliberate personal attacks on him.” In a speech made in Carlingford on Wednesday, Hogan said Johnson seemed to view himself as a “modern day” version of the former PM. Hogan said:

However, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK government’s only Churchillian legacy will be: never have so few done so much damage to so many.

Responding to Johnson’s description of the Irish backstop as “not democratic,” Hogan said the view point “seems strange coming from an unelected Prime Minister.” Johnson’s team accused the EU of “playing games.” A government source told The Times:

Deliberate personal attacks like this are just the kind of negotiation ploys that led to the failure to secure a deal last time. The backstop is toxic and would leave the EU in control of laws and taxes without democratic accountability. If the EU is genuinely keen to negotiate a deal, it will recognise this.

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