Boris Johnson may be due a 'nasty surprise' at Merkel meeting, warns former German diplomat

PUBLISHED: 11:35 21 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:38 21 August 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet Boris Johnson. Photo: Matt Cardy/PA Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet Boris Johnson. Photo: Matt Cardy/PA Images

PA Archive/PA Images

A former German ambassador to the UK has warned that if Boris Johnson is expecting eleventh hour concessions on his Irish backstop demands in the Withdrawal Agreement, he "might be in for a nasty surprise".

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Thomas Matussek said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that there are "certain issues on which the EU cannot budge".

Boris Johnson is headed to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel with the aim of reopening negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement, principally the backstop.

He told ITV news that he believes there are "plenty of other creative solutions" to the backstop.

Regarding this demand, Matussek said: "We cannot throw Ireland under the bus, what message would that send to other members of the EU family if we gave up that sort of loyalty and solidarity?"

Asked if the EU could make last-minute Brexit concessions to the UK, he said: "Well I think this time it might be wrong because I think it's important if you try to put yourself into the shoes of your partner and the clear assessment of the interests of both sides indicate that there are certain issues on which the EU cannot budge and these are the four freedoms. So I think they might be in for a nasty surprise."

He added: "Of course if we see and listen to parliamentarians and to people who show more understanding of what Europe is, we think there might be a glimmer of hope, but I think they will continue keeping out of the internal British debate."

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Johnson had previously disagreed with the EU on what the Irish frontier requires.

He told ITV news: "I think it's a bit paradoxical that the EU side is talking about us putting up all.

"By contrast, it is the EU who currently claim that the single market and the plurality of the single market require them to have such checks - I don't think that's true.

"I'm going to go of course and see if I can explore those ideas with our friends in Germany and France and at the G7 - let's see where we get to.

"It may be that for now, they stick with the mantra, rien ne va plus, and they can't change a jot or a title of the Withdrawal Agreement."

Johnson's meeting with the German chancellor is the first of several with world leaders. He will travel on to Paris on Thursday to meet French president Emmanuel Macron, before joining heads of state including Donald Trump at the G7 summit.

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