Boris Johnson this week met with both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Emmanuel Macron to discuss Brexit. Mrs Merkel gave Mr Johnson a boost, saying removing the Irish Backstop was possible if the UK can come up with practical alternatives in the next 30 days. However, she also said Germany was prepared for a no deal exit.
Speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday Mr Johnon said: “We want a deal and we expect a deal and I think we’re going to get one. Wir schaffen das!”
This was met with an eye-roll from Mrs Merkel and laughter from both journalists and aides.
The phrase “Wir schaffen das” is German for “We can do it” and was Mrs Merkel’s slogan during the 2015 European migrant crisis.
But can Mr Johnson do it? Will the Prime Minister secure a Brexit deal before October 31 deadline?
Mr Johnson said he welcomed the 30-day time scale and insisted alternatives to the backstop could be found as “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.
He also added there were “positive noises” about ways of addressing the issue.
Mr Johnson said: “She (Mrs Merkel) said if we can do this in two years then we can do this in 30 days and I admire that ‘can-do’ spirit that she seemed to have and I think she is right.
“I think that the technical solutions are readily available and they have been discussed at great length.
“You can have trusted-trader schemes, you can have electronic pre-clearing for goods moving across the border and I just want to repeat one crucial thing, under no circumstances will the UK be putting checks at the frontier.
“We don’t think it is necessary from the point of view of the EU to do that to protect the integrity of the single market, we think there are other ways of doing that. We have got I think adequate time to do it, let’s get on and do it.”
However, Mr Macron told the Prime Minister in Paris there could not be a “reshuffling” of the Withdrawal Agreement – but he left open the possibility of making some changes to the deal.
He backed the 30-day timescale suggested by Mrs Merkel for the UK to come forward with its proposals but warned the Irish backstop – the major stumbling block – was indispensable.
Mr Johnson has also said he wants Brexit to be as “pain-free as possible” whether it be with a deal or without.
He said: “A great deal of work has already been done to ensure that the transition on October 31 is as smooth as it possibly can be and so there are already agreements on aviation, on financial services, many other sectors.
In the remaining days before Brexit, Mr Johnson said: “we want to make sure we do all the necessary work on both sides of the Channel to make sure that whether we get an agreement or not our exit is as smooth and pain-free as possible for citizens and businesses on both sides”.
According to bookmakers PaddyPower, it is 8/1 that Mr Johnson can agree to a deal with Mrs Merkel where a backstop doesn’t exist, within her 30-day time limit.
Perhaps more significantly, the bookmakers no longer make it odds-on that there’ll be a ‘No Deal’ Brexit at 13/10.
A spokesman for Paddy Power said: “BoJo entered negotiations with the EU like a bull in a china shop, but they like that kind of thing in Europe, and he’s already made more progress this week than Theresa May did in her entire tenure.
“Clearly, there’s a long way to go, and a lot of negotiation to be had, but the tide is turning (again) for the odds on a ‘No Deal’ Brexit.”