The German Chancellor had appeared to challenge Mr Johnson to find a solution to the border issue which has proved the major sticking point to achieving Brexit and was the main reason behind Theresa May’s failure to get her deal through Parliament. But Ms Merkel attempted to clarify her position today and said she had not given Britain 30 days to find a solution for the so-called Irish backstop but instead wanted to highlight how short time was before Britain’s planned European Union exit date of October 31.
Ms Merkel told a news conference in the Hague: “I said that what one can achieve in three or two years can also be achieved in 30 days.
“Better said, one must say that one can also achieve it by October 31.
“It is not about 30 days. The 30 days were meant as an example to highlight the fact that we need to achieve it in a short time because Britain had said they want to leave the European Union on October 31.
“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?”
Mr Johnson repeatedly stressed the Irish border backstop – a main plank of the withdrawal agreement struck Mrs May – needed to be removed in full.
He said Ms Merkel had given him 30 days to come up with alternatives and said there was ample scope for a deal.
French President Emmanuel Macron told Mr Johnson today there was not enough time to negotiate a wholly new Brexit divorce deal.
He said: ”We will not find a new withdrawal agreement within 30 days that will be very different from the existing one.”
Mr Macron said the Brexit deal and Irish backstop were “not just technical constraints or legal quibbling” but are “genuine, indispensable guarantees” to preserve stability in Ireland and the integrity of the single market.
He said the EU had “always said that it was available to discuss, depending on the wishes of the UK, our future relationship”.
The two leaders were speaking ahead of their formal talks at the Elysee.
Mr Johnson stressed while he wants an agreement, the UK “must come out of the EU on October 31 – deal or no deal”.
He insisted alternatives to the backstop could be found as “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.
“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.”
Mr Johnson said that he wanted a Brexit that was as “pain-free as possible” whether or not there was a deal.