Connect with us

Johnson, Merkel to face off in first Brexit talks



British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Berlin on Wednesday to kick off a marathon of tense talks with key European and international leaders as the threat of a chaotic no-deal Brexit looms.

On his first foreign visit since taking office, he will seek to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and on Thursday French President Emmanuel Macron, to renegotiate elements of the UK’s impending divorce from the European Union — something the EU leaders have already ruled out.


Then, at the weekend, all three will meet US President Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of Brexit and its champion Johnson, and the leaders of Canada, Italy and Japan at a G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.

Johnson, in a do-or-die gamble, has insisted Britain will leave the EU on October 31, no matter whether it has ironed out remaining differences with the bloc or not, at the risk of economic turmoil.

AFP / Sebastien St-Jean The President of the European Council Donald Tusk said Tuesday the EU would not concede to Johnson by scrapping the Irish backstop plan

The apparent hope is that the other 27 EU members will blink and make concessions to avoid a no-deal Brexit that would hurt people and companies on both sides of the Channel.

In Berlin, Johnson will be received with military honors at 1600 GMT before his talks with Merkel.


Although chances for a breakthrough appeared slim, a Merkel spokesman said that, after the two had spoken by phone, “sitting at a table together to discuss Brexit and other European issues … is of course useful”.

– ‘Practical arrangement’ –

Johnson’s tough stance has put him on a collision course with Merkel, Macron and other EU leaders who have insisted the withdrawal deal is final and stressed the need for unity among the other 27 nations.


On Tuesday, EU Council President Donald Tusk again made clear the bloc would not cave in to Johnson’s demand to scrap the so-called Irish border backstop plan, which would keep Britain in the European customs union if no trade deal is signed.

AFP / PAUL FAITH Boris Johnson’ has called the so-called Irish backstop ‘undemocratic’ and wants it scrapped from the current Brexit deal

The mechanism aims to avoid a “hard border” between EU-member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland, which could raise the threat of renewed sectarian tensions.

However, Johnson has slammed the backstop as “undemocratic” and charged it would prevent Britain from pursuing a trade policy independent of EU rules.


Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar this week reiterated the EU 27 position that the withdrawal agreement struck under Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May cannot be reopened.

Berenberg Bank senior economist Kallum Pickering predicted that “if Johnson hopes to persuade Merkel and Macron to sweet-talk Varadkar into changing his tune, he will likely be disappointed”.

“All of the EU’s actions so far since the Brexit vote demonstrate that the EU’s priority is the cohesion of the 27.”


Merkel struck a cautiously hopeful note in Iceland on Tuesday, declaring that the EU was open to “a practical arrangement” on the Irish border issue at a later point.

– ‘Crowbar politics’ –

Given the shock and dismay Brexit has sparked in continental Europe, its vocal champion, the flamboyant former London mayor and ex-foreign minister Johnson, is sure to meet political headwinds.

AFP/File / Niklas HALLE’N Johnson has said the UK will leave the EU with or without a deal on October 31 

German media regularly characterizes Johnson as a reckless and unprincipled political showman with Trump-style populist tendencies.


Influential news magazine Der Spiegel recently caricatured him as the tooth-gapped cover boy Alfred E. Neuman of the American humor magazine Mad, with the headline “Mad in England”.

The business daily Handelsblatt wrote that “Johnson is an admirer of Donald Trump’s crowbar politics” but also warned that “the Europeans should not underestimate him”.

“While the prime minister’s own government has predicted three months of chaos in case of a no-deal Brexit, the Europeans should not make the mistake of thinking Johnson is bluffing,” it said.

“The Brexit supporters have found a leader who is foolhardy enough to plunge the country into chaos.”


The conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recommended that the EU not give in to scare tactics, pointing out that the UK has far more to lose than the bloc does.

“When the new prime minister pays visits to Paris and Berlin this week to ‘threaten’ a hard Brexit once again,” it said, “his opposite numbers should remind him in a friendly yet unmistakably firm manner of the realities he risks incurring.”

Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump has shrunk the White House entirely around himself: ‘It is a government of one’



President Donald Trump has cleared out all the constraints in his White House, which he's running much like the Trump Organization.

The president has chased away four national security advisers, three chiefs of staff, three directors of oval office operations and five communications directors -- an unprecedented amount of turnover for a modern president — and finds himself surrounded by compliant staffers and aides, reported Politico.

“It is a government of one in the same way in which the Trump Organization was a company of one,” said one former senior administration official.

Continue Reading


Benny Gantz says he should be PM in Israel unity government



Benny Gantz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main opponent in the country's general election, said Thursday he should be prime minister in a unity government.

Gantz spoke to journalists after Netanyahu called for them to join together in a unity government as results from Tuesday's vote showed neither with an obvious path to form a majority coalition.

Gantz's centrist Blue and White is nevertheless two seats ahead of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud, according to results published by Israeli media with 97 percent of the vote counted.

Continue Reading

2020 Election

Beto O’Rourke’s plan to legalize marijuana includes clemency for possession sentences and grants for those who already served time



For his latest policy proposal, the Democratic presidential candidate returns to a cause he has championed since his days on the El Paso City Council.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke on Thursday morning released a marijuana legalization plan that calls for clemency for everyone currently serving sentences for possession.

The former El Paso congressman also would push for a federal tax on the pot industry and put the revenue toward a "Drug War Justice Grant" for those formerly incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana offenses.

Continue Reading
Help Raw Story Uncover Injustice. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.