Merkel Rejects Boris Plea for Direct Talks, Wants to ‘Make Britain Crawl Across Broken Glass’

Merkel
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Germany’s Angela Merkel has rejected Boris Johnson’s pleas for face-to-face talks to help secure an 11th-hour Brexit deal, with a source saying she is “determined to make Britain crawl across broken glass” for an agreement.

With December 13th becoming the latest “final” deadline for the talks to be pushed back yesterday — the first was in the summer — Boris Johnson has been trying desperately for a breakthrough, flying to Brussels to talk directly to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and offering to do the same for high-profile national leaders such as Chancellor Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron.

He has gotten nowhere, however, with the Brussels talks producing nothing and Merkel and Macron both declining to meet with him.

“Look, I haven’t done any negotiating at all and I’m not negotiating anything. The European Commission is conducting the negotiations — the Commission president, with Boris Johnson and Michel Barnier — on behalf of us all. Her negotiating position hasn’t changed at all,” Merkel said, in comments reported by The Times.

“It’s very clear that the negotiations are not straightforward. Britain is leaving the Single Market and as it does so you have to make sure that as the legal situations in Britain and the EU develop further apart over time you still have fair terms of competition. But as I said, Germany is not doing the negotiating as an individual participant, all the negotiation is done by the European Union,” she claimed.

Talks have stalled in large part over the EU’s refusal to agree a deal if Britain does not agree to so-called “level playing field” rules — in essence, continued submission to EU regulations, as interpreted by EU judges, but without even the often inconsequential input the British were afforded as EU members — and continued EU control over Britain’s national fisheries.

While even European Economic Area (EEA) members Norway and Iceland are allowed to control their own territorial waters, the EU is reluctant to give up its longstanding and profitable jurisdiction over Britain’s fisheries, having assigned the lion’s share of them to other EU members for decades — destroying tens of thousands of British fishing industry jobs and more than halving the national fishing fleet.

This hard-line position comes despite Britain having already made a number of huge concessions to the EU, including an agreement to pay a massive multi-billion divorce settlement to the bloc and allowing it to exercise continued control over swathes of Northern Ireland’s state aid and regulatory policies, in exchange for virtually nothing in return.

While Boris Johnson concedes that the EU’s position makes a no-deal break with the bloc at the end of the ongoing “transition” period at the end of the year “very, very likely”, he seems unwilling even at this late stage to finally draw under a line under the negotiations and make it absolutely clear that World Trade Organization (WTO) arrangements will be coming into force in January.

This failure to make a firm decision leaves British businesses, expatriates, and others with little time to prepare for whatever Brexit actually comes about at the end of 2020, with the IT systems for the country’s ports, for example, being in chaos due to repeated deadline pushbacks leaving it unclear what system they will be switching to in the new year.

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