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Merkel: With imagination, Irish 'backstop' issue can be solved in 30 days

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested on Wednesday that Britain and the EU could find a solution to the sticking point of the Irish backstop in the next 30 days, a possible signal she is willing to compromise with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson react as they attend a news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

The so-called backstop, which Johnson wants removed from the Brexit deal agreed between the EU and his predecessor, would require Britain to obey some EU rules if no other way could be found to keep the land border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland invisible.

Dublin says this is crucial to maintaining peace on the island.

“The backstop has always been a fall-back option until this issue is solved and one knows how one wants to do that,” Merkel said before talks with Johnson. “It was said we will probably find a solution in two years. But we could also find one in the next 30 days, why not?”

The European Union says Britain has already agreed to the backstop, and sees Johnson’s demand as an effort to pin the blame for the failure of negotiations on the EU.

Johnson told Merkel at their joint news conference that Britain wanted a swift Brexit deal but the” undemocratic” backstop must be fully removed to prevent a no-deal exit on the current deadline of Oct. 31.

“We do need that backstop removed,” Johnson. “But if we can do that then I’m absolutely certain we can move forward together.”

Merkel said she wanted Britain to spell out what a solution to the Irish border problem would look like.

“We will first listen to Britain’s proposals. Our goal is to preserve the integrity of the single market,” she said.

“And just as we managed to discuss and solve issues with imagination within the European Union, I believe that you can also find ways here and this will be the task.”

“And to that extent, I would say from the German side, and this is what we’ll be talking about today, that we would welcome a negotiated exit from the EU, of course, but we have repeatedly said that we are also prepared if such a negotiated exit should not come to fruition,” she added.

Reporting by Joseph Nasr and Michael Nienaber; Editing by Alison Williams