German Ambassador reassures over position on Brexit deal

By Aoife Moore, PA

The German Ambassador to Ireland has told a group of representatives from border communities that Germany is under “no pressure” to accept a deal from the UK over Brexit.

Border Communities Against Brexit visited the Irish parliament on Wednesday to meet with politicians from all parties as well as the German ambassador, after leaked reports of a conversation between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sparked major concerns over Britain crashing out of the EU in just over two weeks.

Mr Johnson and the German leader allegedly spoke about the proposals the UK had put forward to the EU.

New customs cars arriving in Dundalk, near the Irish border (PA)

Leaked reports after the call said Mrs Merkel made clear that any deal based on those plans was “overwhelmingly unlikely”.

Mrs Merkel’s office did not confirm the leaks, saying it does not comment on “private” conversations.

Damian McGennity, one of Borders Communities Against Brexit’s founders, said the meeting with the German ambassador Deike Potzel was vital in order to allay fears among his community.

“It couldn’t have went any better,” Mr McGennity said after the meeting.

“She was very across the issues and to put it simply, Germany’s overriding concern in Brexit is the peace process in Ireland.

“We left feeling hopeful, when you sit and talk to people you can judge whether they mean what they say or if they’re bluffing.

“It’s clear Germany are very across the detail of what’s happening in the north, we were very happy leaving today.

“They’re not under any pressure, they feel the position they have adopted is the right one.

“She also said they’re happy to give an extension.

“She said herself she has had conversations with commerce representatives across industries and there is no pressure she has seen on the German government for their to be a deal.”

The group also met with a number of representatives in Ireland, before the meeting the group said they would push on more clarity.

“Our key question for Irish politicians is going to be: ‘What is the plan for the Irish border? What is it going to look like?’ Now no-deal looks very likely, we’ve seen no plan for that yet,” Mr McGennity added.

“We fully support the Irish Government, they’ve done a good job, and we still want to see the backstop implemented too. But from where we stand today, we have no idea what no-deal looks like.”

Tuesday’s Irish budget for 2020 saw a 1.2 billion euro (£1.07 billion) package to respond to Brexit, with 650 million euro (£582 million) made available to support the agriculture, enterprise and tourism sectors.

This is a welcome addition, the group says, but concerns remain for the northern side of the border.

“Certainly it’s good that the Government is reacting,” Mr McGennity added.

“The key is how the border is going to be managed.

“The issue is on the northern side – we have no financial assistance for businesses, that’s going to have to be raised with the British Government, but they are very much stuck in the frame of getting no-deal, having an election and shoring up a Conservative majority.”

Concerns were heightened around the Irish border last week when a trailer loaded with new customs vehicles was brought to Dundalk, Co Louth.

The group said the Irish Government could be more transparent about its plans when it comes to those most affected by changes at the border.

Mr McGennity added: “It’s a noticeable change around the border now. The change happened last Monday when they saw the customs cars arriving in Dundalk, that was the first tangible thing. People said: ‘This is now happening’, and people believe there is going to be a no-deal.

“Is there going to be checks? That’s what people are asking us.

“I think the Irish Government are playing their cards close to their chest and I can understand why the Irish government cannot be seen to be preparing for no-deal, and we need to face reality sooner or later and I think it’s going to be close.”