Merkel calls for 'pragmatic solution' on N. Ireland

Published June 13, 2021, 7:30 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

BERLIN, Germany – German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday called for a “pragmatic solution” to the thorny issue of post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland, following Britain’s warning that it would “not hesitate” to suspend the agreed protocol if the EU refused to change tack.

In a news conference posted online, Merkel said she “had advocated a pragmatic solution” to the issue during her bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the G7 summit.

“The common prosperity” of Britain and EU “is of utmost importance”, Merkel said.

She said she reminded Johnson that the EU “needs… to control (its) market” and “the fact that not introducing border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland doesn’t change anything”.

“But when it comes to questions of practically putting into place (the protocol) we have to examine where we can do better for the benefit of citizens of Northern Ireland,” she said.

Merkel’s comments followed a warning by Johnson that he would suspend a deal for post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland unless a solution could be found to a row over border checks.

Brussels has been angered by London’s failure to introduce checks on goods heading across the Irish Sea from the mainland UK — England, Scotland and Wales — to the province of Northern Ireland.

European leaders delivered an ultimatum to Johnson on the sidelines of this weekend’s G7 summit, urging him to keep his word and implement the Northern Ireland “protocol”, which was signed separately from a trade deal between the two sides.

But Johnson defiantly restated his calls for the European Union to compromise, urging a more pragmatic approach after talks on the issue broke down earlier this week.

He said he was not prepared to endanger the territorial integrity of the UK, and would “not hesitate to invoke Article 16” of the protocol, suspending its application.

“We need to sort it out,” he told Sky News. “I think we can sort it out. But it’s up to our EU friends and partners to understand that we will do whatever it takes and there is some misunderstanding.”