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Brexit latest news: Thirty days to ditch the backstop as Angela Merkel holds out prospect of new deal

Boris Johnson has been given 30 days to come up with a solution to the Northern Irish backstop and forge a new Brexit deal with the European Union.

Angela Merkel suggested she would be willing to ditch the controversial backstop if the UK can agree a suitable alternative by Sept 20.

The Prime Minister said he was "more than happy" with the German Chancellor's suggestion and said Brexit talks “can finally begin”.

Ms Merkel’s comments were seen as a victory for Mr Johnson on his first trip abroad as Prime Minister, ahead of a meeting with Emmanuel Macron on Thursday and the G7 summit this weekend.

The prospect of reaching a deal could also help Mr Johnson fend off Tory rebels who oppose no-deal should Jeremy Corbyn call a no-confidence vote in early September.

Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel address the press in Berlin Credit:  FABRIZIO BENSCH/REUTERS

Mr Johnson described Mrs Merkel’s timetable for reaching a solution to the backstop as "blistering" but welcomed the proposal and said the "onus is on us" to produce solutions for the Irish border.

He said he was confident of being able to come up with a new solution and said that, under the previous government led by Theresa May, solutions had not been "very actively proposed".

Mr Johnson said: "Clearly we cannot accept the current Withdrawal Agreement, arrangements that either divide the UK or lock us into the regulatory and trading arrangements of the EU, the legal order of the EU, without the UK having any say on those matters.

"So we do need that backstop removed. But if we can do that then I am absolutely certain that we can move forward together."

In a letter this week to Donald Tusk, the European Council President, Mr Johnson said he was prepared to leave the European Union without a deal unless the "anti-democratic" backstop was removed from the Withdrawal Agreement.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin Mrs Merkel said the backstop had always been a "fallback position" and would only come into effect if no other solution could be agreed that would protect the "integrity of the single market".

The German Chancellor said: "If one is able to solve this conundrum, if one finds this solution, we said we would probably find it in the next two years to come but we can also maybe find it in the next 30 days to come.

"Then we are one step further in the right direction and we have to obviously put our all into this."

Ms Merkel said she expected the UK to present its ideas for a new Brexit deal. “Britain should tell us what sort of ideas it has because it is not the core task of a German chancellor to understand the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland so well,” she said. “As you will know much better about all the ramifications of the Good Friday Agreement.

“We would like to hear first proposals put on the table by Britain. We have shown imagination and creativity in the past as the EU, I think here too we can find ways and means."

Ms Merkel also said Germany was also “prepared for a no-deal” Brexit, adding: “Should this happen, this will or can happen, we are prepared for it.”

Mr Johnson responded: "I must say I am very glad listening to you tonight, Angela, to hear that at least the conversations that matter can now properly begin.

"You have set a very blistering timetable of 30 days - if I understood you correctly, I am more than happy with that."

He said the backstop would need to be removed "whole and entire" before any new deal could be reached.

The two leaders then held talks over a dinner of venison and tuna tartare.

The meeting will put pressure on Emmanuel Macron to open the door to negotiation. A source in the French President’s office on Wednesday said a no-deal Brexit was being treated as the most likely scenario.

On Wednesday night Mr Macron told reporters that renegotiating the UK's exit was "not an option". He also warned a post-Brexit trade deal with the US would represent a "historic vassalisation" for the UK.

Mr Johnson is due to travel to France on Thursday to meet Mr Macron in Paris.

Mr Johnson has said he wants to replace the Northern Ireland backstop with new alternative arrangements including mobile examinations on livestock and crops, trusted trader schemes and electronic customs clearance checks.

The Prime Minister said ahead of talks with Ms Merkel that he was looking at measures proposed in a detailed 270 page report drawn up by Greg Hands, a former Tory minister, and Nicky Morgan, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary.

Mr Johnson said: "The onus is on us to produce those solutions, those ideas to show how we can address the issue of the Northern Irish border - and that is what we want to do."

The Prime Minister also said in German: "Wir schaffen das", or "We can do it," in reference to renegotiating a deal. The phrase was a catchphrase used by Mrs Merkel about letting migrants into Germany.

'Wir schaffen das!'' 

Boris Johnson stole the limelight from Angela Merkel by uttering one of her election slogans in German, writes Justin Huggler in Berlin.

The Prime Minister broke into halting Deutsch as he stood next to Mrs Merkel in the Chancellery - the equivalent of 10 Downing Street.

Mr Johnson said: "We want a deal and we expect a deal and I think we're going to get one," Mr Johnson said. "Wir schaffen das!'"

Mrs Merkel then rolled her eyes, prompting around 150 aides and journalists to burst out laughing. Mr Johnson's phrase — it means "We can do it" — became Mrs Merkel's slogan during the migrant crisis of 2015 when one million immigrants were allowed across the border into Germany.

Specifically, it was the slogan for her open-door refugee policy which split Germany down the middle and almost saw the end of her political career.

Mrs Merkel's weary eyeroll has become something of a trademark for her in recent years.  She has been known to use it when meeting US President Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin, but always spared Theresa May, Mr Johnson's predecessor at No 10.

Good cop Bad cop 

Boris Johnson says he is 'glad that at least conversations' on the matter of the backstop can begin

Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel taking questions from journalists at the Chancellery Credit: JOHN MACDOUGALL

Is this visit just posturing? 

Boris Johnson says he "of course" thinks that "there is ample scope to do a deal".

"I've explained pretty clearly what needs to happen. The back stop, that arrangement, that had to go. Once we get rid of it, there is the real prospect of making progress very rapidly and that's why I'm here. 

When asked why she won't reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, Mrs Merkel said: "This is an expression of a problem we have not solved. 

"The backstop has always been a fall back position."

She added they would be welcome to see someone "solve this conundrum" be it in the next two years or "we can also maybe find it in the next 30 days". 

Never had a welcome like it... 

In his first overseas trip as Prime Minister Johnson thanks Mrs Merkel for giving him such a "warm welcome". 

We will discuss the small matter of Brexit which we are fated to discuss. I want to be clear...we in the UK want a deal. We seek a deal. I believe we can get one. We can do it. 

We must get that backstop removed and if we can do that I am absolutely certain we can move forward. 

Angela Merkel: We are prepared for no deal

On no-deal Brexit Angela Merkel says "should this happen, we are prepared for it but obviously we also think of the life of the many British citizens living in member countries of the EU." 

Boris Johnson has met with Angela Merkel at the Chancellery in Berlin 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has met Boris Johnson at the Chancellery in Berlin Credit: REUTERS

 Hecklers gathered outside chanted "No Brexit" as the two leaders arrived. 

'Liberal values could not be more relevant in an international context and the Lib Dems will be their champion' 

Chuka Umunna tells The Telegraph:

In June Russia's Vladimir Putin said liberalism had become 'obsolete'. Nonsense. Liberal values could not be more relevant in an international context and Liberal Democrats will be their champion. 

In different ways the leaderships of the Tory and Labour parties are aligning themselves with or are sympathetic to opponents of the liberal rules based international order, be they Trump who Johnson models himself on, or the Iranian regime whose state broadcaster Labour figures have regularly appeared on.

We are the only party that can get into government which seeks to reform and defend the liberal rules based international order.

Chuka Umunna: The biggest UK foreign policy issue is Brexit 

The new shadow foreign secretary for the Lib Dems says he will scrutinise the work of Dominic Raab and the Foreign Office: 

Jane Dodds:  I look forward to this exciting and challenging role.

Ms Dodds, who has been appointed the Lib Dem's shadow secretary for Wales Food & Rural Affairs, tells The Telegraph she is "honoured" to have been given the responsibility for food and rural affairs, "given the challenges we have ahead for food sustainability and for our farmers". 

"The Welsh language is a vibrant part of our rural communities and our heritage, and as a welsh speaker, I want to do all I can to support our welsh culture," she said.

"Farmers are continuing to grow in expertise as environmentalists and the connection of this issue to climate change is a particular focus. I look forward to this exciting and challenging role." 

For The Record 

David Cameron will be interviewed by John Humphrys to mark the publication of the former prime minister's autobiography.

Mr Cameron will be interviewed on the Today programme next month.

The former premier is due to carry out a string of high-profile television and radio interviews to coincide with the launch of For The Record on September 19.

Speculation on its contents is likely to centre around Mr Cameron's controversial decision to hold a referendum on Britain's EU membership and his decision to quit Number 10 in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit result in 2016.

Mr Cameron's first broadcast interview will be with ITV News.

Michael Gove: 'goodwill on all sides' was required to work on alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop

"There are a series of particular facilitations and easements that can be introduced alongside technology which can help ensure that we have as effective a flow of goods over the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland border as businesses will need," Mr Gove said. 

"It all depends on the willingness of the EU, in particular the European Commission, to commit to making sure that some of the work that's already being done is expedited."

Asked if it would be possible for that work to be done before October 31, Mr Gove said: "If the EU commit to this approach then it's perfectly possible for us to have a transition or implementation period and then to work on all the steps that are required in order to give confidence that we can continue to have a solution of the island of Ireland that works in everyone's interest."

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet: The humourless French will never 'get' Boris Johnson

To the French,  Mr Johnson is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, Anne-Elisabeth Moutet writes. 

They see him as the exact opposite of what a politician should be: it’s hard to imagine someone more different from Emmanuel Macron while still belonging to the same species. Now the two are meeting on Thursday at the Elysee, and my only advice to Macron is: take an interpreter.

Read the rest of the piece here 

What a mess.

 Fortunately, it didn't seem to take him long to have it cleaned up. 

Operation Yellowhammer is 'the absolute worst-case'

Mr Gove said the report, which set out the consequences of Britain leaving without a deal, was about "the absolute worst-case".

"I'm confident that, if we all do the right thing, on October 31 we will be able to ensure that goods can flow in and out of ports like Holyhead without any significant delay," he said. 

"There are a number of scenarios, there is a worst-case and we are trying very hard to reduce the risk of that worst case materialising.

"I think the steps that we've taken over the course of the last three weeks and more steps that we'll be taking in the next few weeks and months will ensure that we reduce the risk even further.

"One of them is making sure that traders have all the information and the systems that they need in order to be able to export."

Michael Gove: 'We're going to do everything we can to try to get a deal'

Speaking on a visit to Holyhead Port in North Wales, Michael Gove, the Government minister in charge of no-deal planning, said: "We're going to do everything we can to try to get a deal and Boris is seeing Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron in order to try to see if there's movement on the European side, but so far we haven't seen much movement from the EU and its leaders so we have to plan prudently in case we don't get a deal."

Mr Gove said "different people put a different statistical likelihood" on what the chances of a no-deal Brexit.  

"My view is that there is a chance that it might happen therefore we need to be ready for it and many of the things that we would do anyway as we leave the single market and the customs union we would do or need to do in the event of leaving without a deal," he said.

Sir Norman Lamb and Sarah Wollaston

Sir Norman and Dr Wollaston, who recently joined the Lib Dem party, will attend relevant Shadow Cabinet meetings but given their roles as Chairs of respective Select Committees they will not take a formal Shadow Cabinet role. 

And the rest... 

Tim Farron: Housing, Communities and Local Government Work and Pensions North of England (Northern Powerhouse) 

Alistair Carmichael: Chief Whip Northern Ireland 

Jane Dodds: Wales Food & Rural Affairs

Catherine Bearder: Europe 

Siobhan Benita: London 

Willie Rennie: Scotland 

Kirsty Williams:  Wales  

Dick Newby:  Leader of the House of Lords  

Sal Brinton: President of the Liberal Democrats

Who made the cut?

Ed Davey : Chancellor of the Exchequer Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 

Chuka Umunna:  Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs International Development International Trade

Christine Jardine: Home Department Justice Women and Equalities Deputy Chief Whip

Tom Brake:  Exiting the European Union Duchy of Lancaster

Jamie Stone:  Defence Scotland  

Vince Cable: Health and Social Care 

Layla Moran: Education Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Wera Hobhouse: Climate Change and Environment  Transport

Jo Swinson announces shadow cabinet

The leader of the Liberal Democrats has announced her first shadow cabinet with the aim of stopping Brexit.

It is 50/50 gender balanced and has a membership of 15 per cent BAME.

I am proud to announce my new Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet to stop Brexit.  

Given the threats from nationalism and populism, more than ever before, people are crying out for a new vision for our country.  

This new team will take the fight to this right wing Conservative Government and provide, where Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party have been absent, the real alternative our country needs.

This is also a team ready to offer the solutions to the big issues people face, to lead the Liberal Democrats as the strongest remain party into a General Election, and to win a People’s Vote.

Meetings in Germany and France 

Ahead of Boris Johnson's meetings with the leaders of Germany and France, European Commission spokesman Natasha Bertaud said:

It's normal that our member states meet and talk to one another.

Beyond this, the EU27 have had from the outset - and continue to have now - one single, united position on Brexit matters.

Grant Shapps says the review of HS2 will "independent and rigorous"

"The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits.

"That's why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2.

"Douglas Oakervee and his expert panel will consider all the evidence available, and provide the department with clear advice on the future of the project."

Lord Berkeley to be deputy chairman of review into HS2 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has appointed Lord Berkeley as deputy chairman of an independent review amid concerns about spiralling costs.

Former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee will lead the inquiry, with Lord Berkeley - a long-term critic of the high-speed railway scheme - acting as his deputy.

The Derpartment for Transport said the review will consider a number of factors relating to HS2, including its benefits, impacts, affordability, efficiency, deliverability, scope and phasing.

A final report will be sent to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps - with oversight from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Sajid Javid - by the autumn.

Boris Johnson's girlfriend barred from visiting America 

Carrie Symonds had her application to travel to America in the next few days blocked.

The problem could have been as a result of a trip she made to Somaliland last year, according to the Daily Mail. 

The US does not recognise Somaliland as an independent country, instead viewing it as part of Somalia. 

Applicants looking to travel to the US are asked whether they have visited Somalia since March 2011.

Ms Symonds visited Somaliland last year with her friend Nimco Ali, a campaigner against female genital mutilation.

This morning, Ms Ali tweeted: 

'We must stop going round and round in circles'

On party unity, Mr Jenrick said it was important to stop "going round and round in circles" and  "deliver on the outcome of the referendum". 

He said it was "debilitating" to not do so. 

"It's damaging for the economy and it's bad for public trust and faith in our politics," he said. 

"And so delivering Brexit on that date I think is absolutely essential for the country and obviously for the Conservative Party and I would also urge my Conservative colleagues to think carefully about putting Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10."

Mr Jenrick said it was not in the national interest to "undermine the Prime Minister's hand" in the negotiations.

Robert Jenrick: EU 'ill-advised to underestimate our determination'

The Communities Secretary insisted it was "entirely possible" for Mr Johnson to secure a Brexit deal, but removing the backstop offered the "only prospect of securing a deal".

He told the Today programme: "He's (Mr Johnson) saying... he will negotiate energetically in the pursuit of a deal, he's very happy to sit down and to talk to EU leaders, but he's making clear that the backstop needs to be removed, that is the only prospect of securing a deal."

He added: "If we have a very credible option to leave on October 31... if we do that and we make clear to the EU that we want to secure a deal, we want to leave in an orderly way that works both for us and for our friends in the EU, but that the only way to do that is to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, remove the backstop."

He added that the EU needed to recognise that the deal negotiated by Theresa May "was rejected three times by the House of Commons, so common sense dictates that we now need to secure a different and better deal and the route to that is removing the backstop."

Discussing the ramping of no-deal preparations across Whitehall, he added that the UK was much better prepared and that Brussels " would be ill-advised to underestimate our determination".

German politicians attack Johnson ahead of Berlin visit

Ahead of Boris Johnson's meeting with Angela Merkel this evening, German politicians have already dismissed the chances of any concession on the Irish backstop. 

Last night Florian Hahn, the European policy spokesman for the CDU in the Bundestag, said that there "cannot and will not be new negotiations", according to The Times. 

"It is completely impossible that the backstop will be removed from the agreement or softened," he added.

"The only possible offer would be to agree more precise language for the political declaration on the future relationship between the EU and the UK after Brexit. But I fear this won’t be enough for Boris Johnson.

“Boris Johnson wants to smash his head through the wall. But the wall is thicker than he thinks.”

Meanwhile, German MEP Elmar Broke claimed that Remainer MPs had given the EU hope that Mr Johnson could be prevented from taking the UK out of the EU without a deal. 

He told BBC Newsnight: "There is a a majority against a no deal, the House of Commons has shown that. I do hope that because of the case of democracy the British government will not stop the House of Commons from making [clear] its position.”

Ed Vaizey: Boris is 'hellbent on no-deal'

Tory former culture minister claimed the Prime Minister was "just going through the motions" with his Europe trip this week and was "hell-bent on getting no deal".

He said the "real onus now" was on Parliament to show that it was willing to pass a Withdrawal Agreement, adding that talk of a government of national unity was "completely for the birds".

The MP for Wantage told the Today programme: "Well I'm not going to vote no confidence in the Government. I will look at any measures that could prevent no-deal happening, but my challenge to my anti no-deal colleagues, and I totally respect their position and my position is where does that get us?

Ed Vaizey

"Where does an extension get us? It delays it by six months to a year, it doesn't solve the problem.

"We've been looking at the wrong target. The EU has said again and again and again this is the deal. They've got 27 countries to support it; we can't even get 350 MPs to support it.

"We're going to keep coming back to the Withdrawal Agreement, we're going to continue to have a hung Parliament and a zombie Parliament unless and until we leave the EU and parties can then campaign to try and get a majority."

Attenborough: people are 'fed up' with EU interference

Sir David Attenborough has said that many people in the UK are "fed up" with the European Union over its "silly" interference in British affairs.

In a wide-ranging interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the naturalist and broadcaster said the EU might not have paid enough attention to what people cared about and had allowed itself to do things that irritate people.

While some people in South America and Africa "are faced with hideous problems, meanwhile we are occupied with these silly squabbles about Brexit", he added.

"I think that the irritation of the ways in which the European community has interfered with people's lives on silly levels or silly issues has irritated a lot of people who don't actually understand what the advantages and the disadvantages are," he told the paper.

"They're just fed up with somebody over there who doesn't speak their language, telling him how much money they've got to charge for tomatoes or something silly."

Read more here.