Best weather, delicious food, and plenty of time to talk – the G7 summit in Biarritz is a good place to start, even on difficult political issues. Brexit is such a topic. But in the struggle for an amicable settlement of this dispute, there was no progress to announce on the weekend from France.
According to EU sources, new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived on Sunday without any new proposals for a meeting with EU Council President Donald Tusk. The approximately 30-minute conversation on the sidelines of the G7 summit was in a "very positive atmosphere", but had no real news, it said.
The dispute over Brexit, planned by the United Kingdom on October 31, is primarily about Johnson trying to re-launch the already negotiated exit agreement in order to remove the so-called backstop clause. The EU categorically rejects this and points out that the clause is intended to prevent border controls from being reintroduced between Northern Ireland and EU Member Ireland.
By contrast, Johnson sees the backstop as an "instrument of incarceration" because it could keep Northern Ireland in the Customs Union and Single Market if there is no consensus on the outstanding negotiations on future EU-UK relations.
The British would have to go on the offensive – but there was little
EU diplomats said on Sunday they were ready to talk to Johnson about alternatives to backstop. Suggestions would have to come from the British side. And then apparently came rather little.
Johnson had recently repeatedly stressed that he was convinced that a regulated exit from the EU on the current Brexit deadline of 31 October is feasible. If necessary, he wants to lead his country but also without a Brexit agreement from the EU. The latter scenario is likely to have significant consequences, especially for the economy, because customs and border controls would have to be reintroduced as things stand.
On the sidelines of the G7 summit, Johnson told television broadcaster Sky News he saw a "realistic chance" of reaching an agreement. At the same time, however, he emphasized that the exit agreement negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May was dead. That would have to recognize the European friends.
What about the UK withdrawal statement?
Johnson also repeated threats to cut outstanding payments to the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit. If there was no deal, they would not be legally bound to pay £ 39 billion, Johnson said. Sky News had earlier reported that it could possibly only be paid nine billion pounds.
According to EU sources, on Sunday after the meeting between Johnson and Tusk, the topic had not been raised by the British side. In addition, it was stressed that the sum of 39 billion pounds (43 billion euros) mentioned by Johnson is not an EU figure. According to the information, the final invoice could be lower. It will be announced when it is clear when Britain will leave the EU, it said.
The G7 summit in Biarritz ends this Monday. Johnson was expected to hold a press conference at the end.