Angela Merkel has told Boris Johnson the European Union would be prepared for a no-deal Brexit, as she welcomed the British Prime Minister to Berlin.
The German Chancellor said she wanted a Brexit outcome which allowed the UK and EU to continue to have “very close relations” – but acknowledged that the bloc had to be ready for the possibility of Britain crashing out without a deal.
Mr Johnson, on his first foreign trip as Prime Minister, said a deal was possible but only if the EU dropped the backstop – the contingency plan aimed at preventing a hard border between the UK and Ireland.
After a formal welcome ceremony for Mr Johnson in the German capital, Mrs Merkel said: “Britain is leaving the European Union.
“We have said repeatedly from the German perspective that we very much regret this but it is fact.
“So what we now need to do is to shape Britain leaving the European Union in such a way that we continue to have very close relations between the UK and the EU.”
She added: “We are also prepared for a no-deal so, should this happen, this will or can happen, we are prepared for it.
“Obviously we also think of the many citizens, British citizens living currently in other countries of the European Union who also have to deal with the situation should Britain, from one day to the next, no longer be a member of the European Union.”
Mr Johnson, whose stance on the backstop has been met with a wall of resistance in Brussels, insisted he wanted a Brexit deal.
But he added: “Clearly we cannot accept the current Withdrawal Agreement, arrangements that either divide the UK or lock us into the regulatory and trading arrangements of the EU, the legal order of the EU, without the UK having any say on those matters.
“So we do need that backstop removed.
“But if we can do that then I am absolutely certain that we can move forward together.”