Boris Johnson urges reopening of EU travel in farewell talks with Angela Merkel
Boris Johnson will on Friday urge Angela Merkel to help reopen the rest of Europe to British visitors, in what are expected to be largely amicable talks as the German chancellor’s time in office draws to a close.
After years at loggerheads over Brexit, Johnson’s aides said the UK prime minister would welcome Merkel to his Chequers country retreat and thank her for her “years of service to global diplomacy”.
In a sign of the apparent respect Johnson has for Merkel, in spite of their differences over Europe, the British leader was said by allies to be keen to “pick the chancellor’s brains and draw from her experience in office”.
Amid the flattery, Johnson is expected to raise with Merkel her uncompromising stance towards British travellers, as she attempts to control the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19.
Currently, anybody travelling from Britain to Germany has to quarantine for two weeks, even if they are vaccinated against the coronavirus or have tested negative. Merkel wants other EU countries to adopt a similar stance.
Johnson, however, has insisted that “double jabs do offer a good way forward” and “offer hope of travel this summer”. He wants two-thirds of adults in England to be fully vaccinated by July 19.
The British premier will also urge Merkel to use her final months in office to smooth relations between Britain and the EU, particularly by backing a more flexible stance from Brussels over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade regime.
As part of Johnson’s attempts to draw a line under years of Brexit acrimony, Merkel — making her 22nd visit to the UK since taking office in 2005 — will be invited to address a virtual meeting of the British cabinet.
Johnson will also announce a new award for British and German women in science in honour of the chancellor and both sides will agree to hold an annual joint UK-German cabinet meeting.
Merkel’s spokesman said before the visit, part of a farewell tour of European capitals by the chancellor, that Germany was “working hard to deepen and promote the UK-German relationship after Brexit, which we regret, but naturally recognise as a reality”.
He said Merkel and Johnson would discuss “what we should do about the Delta variant, which is bringing a new dynamic into the pandemic”. He added: “They will also likely discuss what to do about travel rules in Europe, between the EU and third countries.”
German health minister Jens Spahn has said the UK might soon be designated a “high incidence area” rather than a “virus variant area”, which would mean fewer strict quarantine rules for people coming from the UK.
British officials expect Johnson, who is not a football fan, to briefly discuss with Merkel England’s victory this week over Germany in the Euro 2020 football championships. Merkel, who is a football supporter, has criticised plans to stage both semi-finals and the final of the tournament in front of large crowds at Wembley, on public health grounds.