Backstop is indispensable, Macron tells Johnson (Lead)

Paris, Aug 22 (IANS) French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said that the Ireland-Northern Ireland backstop plan was "indispensable" to preserve political stability and the single market as he met visiting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who was here on second leg of a trip aimed at pushing the EU to shift its position on Brexit.

The backstop, opposed by Johnson, aims to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (an EU member) after Brexit.

The UK Prime Minister insists that the backstop must be ditched if a no-deal exit from the EU on October 31 is to be avoided, arguing that it could leave the UK tied to the EU indefinitely.

But the EU has repeatedly said the withdrawal deal negotiated by former UK Prime Minister Theresa May, which includes the backstop, cannot be renegotiated.

"Our position has always been to respect the sovereignty of the British people," said the French President. "We are actively getting prepared to all scenarios."

Ahead of his meeting with Johnson here, Macron said that he's often portrayed as the "hard man" in Brexit negotiations, media reports said.

"But there is little time left to alter the existing deal substantively... We will not find a new withdrawal agreement within 30 days which will be very different from the existing one," he said.

The French President reiterated his stance that Brexit is "not the choice of the EU".

"The Irish backstop (clauses) are not simply technical constraints but vital guarantees for the preservation of stability in Ireland and the integrity of the single market which is the basis of the European Project," Macron added.

"Where there's a will, there's a way," Johnson said, adding: "We must leave the European Union on October 31, deal or no deal", Xinhua news agency reported.

When asked about what will happen with a no-deal Brexit, Johnson told the press that under no circumstances would Britain set up border checks on the boundary between the British Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the BBC reported.

"Technical solutions are readily available and they have been discussed at great length," he said. "You can have trusted trader schemes, you can have electronic pre-clearing."

The UK leader said that he wants a deal and he was "powerfully encouraged" by talks on Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Berlin on Wednesday, Merkel said the "UK has to tell us what ideas it has" to solve the backstop issue, adding that "it is not the job of the chancellor" to find a solution.

Merkel challenged Johnson to come up with a new plan for Brexit in 30 days.

--IANS

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