BERLIN (Reuters) – Solutions still need to be found for customs arrangements in Northern Ireland to clinch a Brexit deal and European Union leaders could yet meet again if they do not reach an agreement at this week’s summit, Germany’s Angela Merkel said on Thursday.
The German chancellor said the British government had shown “a readiness to negotiate with very concrete proposals”.
“There has been movement in recent days, significant movement … so we are on a better path than before but, today I must say very clearly, we have not reached the goal yet,” Merkel told Germany’s Bundestag lower house of parliament.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s last-ditch attempt to clinch a Brexit deal was thrown into disarray just hours before an EU summit on Thursday when the Northern Irish party he needs to help ratify any agreement refused to support it.
Speaking ahead of the summit, Merkel said there had been many times in the recent past where a solution seemed to have been almost reached before things broke down, adding that she could not therefore say how the EU summit would end this week.
“We do not yet have an agreement on all the questions related to customs. We need practical, realistic solutions on how the new customs controls in Northern Ireland should concretely be implemented,” she said.
“An agreement on an orderly departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union remains possible,” she told lawmakers, adding to loud applause: “I can say that we will not allow hate and violence to flare up on the island of Ireland again.”
“We will negotiate until the last second,” she said.
“If necessary, we can meet again for an extraordinary (European) Council. But let’s see what happens here. Even if we are well prepared for a disorderly exit, an orderly Brexit is of course in everyone’s interests.”
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Paul Carrel; Editing by Michelle Martin)