LONDON (AP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel made her last visit to Britain on Friday before stepping down later this year, expressing hope that relations between the two countries can be reset after years of Brexit-related tensions .
On her 22nd visit to the UK since becoming Chancellor 16 years ago, Merkel sought to downplay tensions that became clear after British voters decided in June 2016 to leave the European Union. She even expressed interest in a new treaty between the two countries to cement the new relationship.
“It is, now that Britain has left the European Union, a good opportunity to open a new chapter in our relationship,” she said at a joint press conference alongside her host, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after having dinner of English and Oxfordshire asparagus. beef at a working lunch.
“We would be very happy on the German side to work together on a friendship treaty or a cooperation treaty, which would reflect the full extent of the relationship,” she added.
During the Prime Minister’s Checkers’ retreat from the country, Merkel addressed Johnson’s cabinet by video call, the first foreign leader to do so since US President Bill Clinton in 1997. The two leaders agreed during their discussions that their respective cabinets would meet every year.
Merkel said she was optimistic about the possibility of finding a “pragmatic” solution to the new post-Brexit trade deals with regard to Northern Ireland, the UK’s only land border with the EU and its single market and its customs union without customs duties.
The Northern Ireland Protocol imposed customs and border controls on certain goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK to ensure that there is no hard border on the island of ‘Ireland. This angered the Unionist community of Northern Ireland and many in Johnson’s Conservative Party, who say the controls amount to a border in the Irish Sea and weaken ties between Northern Ireland and the rest of UK.
A flashpoint since the new arrangements rolled out at the start of the year has focused on chilled meats, such as sausages, which are staples of German and British cuisine. Under EU rules, sales of these products are not allowed from so-called third countries, which Britain is after Brexit. A grace period to allow UK ‘banger’ sales to Northern Ireland was extended earlier this week by three more months until the end of September.
Johnson said he was confident the thorny issue would be resolved after he met Merkel.
“Imagine if Bratwurst couldn’t be moved from Dortmund to Düsseldorf due to the jurisdiction of an international tribunal,” he said. “You would think it was absolutely extraordinary. We must therefore sort it out. I’m sure, as Angela says, that with good will and patience, we can fix it.
Merkel also said double-bitten Britons should be able to travel to Germany without quarantine for the “foreseeable future”. But she expressed ‘serious concern’ to Johnson about the number of football fans allowed into Wembley Stadium for the final stages of the European Football Championship given the high levels of infection of the Delta Plus variant. contagious of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom
More than 60,000 spectators will be at the North London Stadium for the semi-finals on July 6-7 and the final on July 11 as part of the government’s Events Research Program on Holding Mass Events in All. security. All ticket holders must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of two doses of the vaccine.
Merkel also said she was “a little sad” that the England football team beat Germany 2-0 in their Round of 16 earlier this week, but sent her best wishes to the England team for the remainder of the tournament.
“During that time some things changed in unrecognizable ways, but for much of your tenure it was certainly a tradition, Angela, for England to lose to Germany in international football tournaments,” Johnson said.
“I am obviously grateful to you for breaking with this tradition, just for once,” he joked.
Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this story.