German president echoes Angela Merkel in saying the backstop will not be revisited
Germany will stand fully in solidarity with Ireland over Brexit, the countrys president has said, and look to underpin rather than undermine the peace process that has kept the border with Northern Ireland invisible in the past 20 years
Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Irelands president, Michael Higgins, on a visit to Berlin that Germany stands firmly by Irelands side, raising questions about Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnsons optimism that the Irish border backstop can be revisited.
Politically and economically, Ireland is more directly affected by Brexit than any other EU member state. For this reason, too, your country has our full solidarity. We have reiterated this pledge in recent months: Germany stands firmly by Irelands side, he said.
The European Unions value and internal cohesion have rarely been so plain as during the withdrawal negotiations. Ireland is part of this union. And Irelands core interests are and will remain the EUs core interests, he added.
Steinmeier said Germany was aware of the great achievements there have been in building reconciliation since the Good Friday agreement in 1998.
We want to strengthen you in your endeavours to find a solution for the border which will underpin, rather than undermine the peace process. Obviously this will involve the free movement of goods and persons. What it will not involve is barriers, customs duties and trade barriers.
Here, Irelands concerns are also our concerns, he added.
His remarks echo those of Merkel during a private meeting this year with representative of Northern Irish communities. Those attending said she paid great interest to the history of Ireland, noting that Germany too had once had a border dividing the country.
In a further blow to the leadership contenders hopes to get the backstop changed, the German president said:
All EU member states have clearly stated that renegotiations is not an option. We just have to hope that the new government in London realises that too.
Hunt and Johnson have claimed they will be able to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement by threatening to crash out with no deal, with Johnson describing the deal as a dead letter in Belfast this week.