EU will 'simply have to' find way of preventing border in event of hard Brexit - Merkel
GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the EU will “simply have to” find a way of preventing a border on this island in the event of a hard Brexit.
The Chancellor said she still believes there can be a Brexit deal with the UK saying "where there's a will, there's a way".
Following her meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin, Ms Merkel offered reassures that she will work “until the very last hour” to prevent a no-deal scenario.
But she said it will require a new proposal for a way forward from British Prime Minister Theresa May next week if a further Brexit extension is to be granted.
Ms Merkel met with representatives of the farmers, businesspeople and community activists at Farmleigh House today for what she described a "very moving" discussion on the impact of the border. She said she lived "behind the Iron Curtain" and knows what it means when a wall falls.
Asked afterwards if it is possible for Ireland to protect the EU’s single market and not have a border, Ms Merkel said: "We will simply have to be able to do this. We will have to be successful.
"I think you also have this phrase 'where there's a will, there's a way. And we’re working on this."
She said her visit to Dublin was a very important one because Germany wanted to show its solidarity with Ireland at a difficult time.
"We will walk together. Today was a very important experience for me," the Chancellor said.
Mr Varadkar said he hopes to protect the Good Friday Agreement as well as upholding the integrity of the EU Single Market.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a very “strong ally” of Ireland during the Brexit process.
He said that he still wants the Brexit deal ratified but there is very little time left and "we have to prepare ourselves for all outcomes."
He said he and Mrs Merkel discussed planning for a no-deal Brexit: "including how we will work together to meet our twin objectives of protecting the Good Friday Agreement on which peace in Ireland is based and also protecting the integrity of the European Single Market and Customs Union on which our economic model is founded."
He added: "I welcome the Chancellor's continued understanding and support for the challenges that we face and if it arises it will be a shared challenge for Ireland and the European Union."
Mr Varadkar said patience is needed with Westminster where the Brexit debate continues to play out.
He said any extension to the UK's departure requires a credible and realistic way forward and he added that the Withdrawal Agreement is not up for renegotiation.
The Taoiseach also said that the government does not want "Ireland to become the back door to the single market in the event of hard Brexit".
"What we want to achieve of course is free movement of people north and south, no customs, no tariffs, no customs and no checks," he said.
There are three ways that can be achieved he said: the UK staying in the bloc, a Norway-plus arrangement or the Withdrawal Agreement with the backstop.
"There are three ways that we know to achieve that but if all three are rejected that obviously puts us in a difficult position," he said.
"There are some things we know that can be done remotely like the levying of customs and tariffs but things like animal checks have to be done physically somewhere," he said.
Discussions are underway with the European Commission on this but solutions would require the cooperation also of the UK, he said.
Mr Varadkar said EU unity was maintained throughout negotiations and that he expected this to continue.
"In the unlikely event that we end up in a no-deal scenario whatever challenges we face, whether it's protecting the Good Friday Agreement or maintaining the integrity of the Common Market we'll approach those as shared challenges.
"There won't be anyone trying to enforce anything on anyone else. It's going to be very much a shared challenge and a European challenge and one that we're up to."
Mrs Merkel was asked if she believes there's an awareness on all sides, including in Britain of the threat to peace.
She said she could only speak for the German government and that she's aware of "what is at stake and what has to be solved", particularly in relation to Ireland.
The 15 people from north and south the the border region who met Ms Merkel included a peace worker from Belfast who lost close family members in a bomb attack and a woman from Derry who also lost her husband during the Troubles.
Some of the group spoke to the media during a rain-soaked press conference outside Farmleigh.
Peter Sheridan, the chief executive of Co-Operation Ireland, who is a former PSNI assistant chief constable said they shared their "personal lived experiences" of the border with Mrs Merkel.
He said the idea is those messages would be taken back into the technical meetings about Brexit and that "human beings would be planted in the middle of all that".
He said everyone who was there was impressed by how much the Chancellor knew.
Ms Merkel grew up behind the Cold War 'Iron Curtain' in East Germany.
Mr Sheridan said: "I think her own background living on one side of a wall, she understood the very personal stories we shared with her."
He said: "She mentioned her own background and what it was like to be on one side of that border. She had that personal experience herself."
Patricia MacBride, a magistrate from Derry, said: "It's very clear she understands, given her own experience, of Germany prior to reunification, that she understands the challenges that a hard border would bring to this island."
She said she believes Ms Merkel will take their messages to the crunch European Summit next week.
Former INM group business editor Dearbhail McDonald was also among the group.
She said Ms Merkel was told about the significance of the Customs Union and the Single Market and the dismantling of the physical border across the island of Ireland.
Businesswoman Deborah Loughran said one point she wanted to put across to Ms Merkel was there are businesses in Northern Ireland that rely on being part of the EU and have a lot of trade with member states.
She said: "For Northern Ireland - it's not just about cross-border, it's about our relationship with the rest of Europe and that's important too."