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Merkel aims for UK-Germany relations reset during last visit

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP
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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) look on as they arrive for the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, on June 11, 2021.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) look on as they arrive for the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, on June 11, 2021.   -   Copyright  PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP

Angela Merkel emphasised a reset of relations between the UK and Germany and a possible friendship treaty during her final visit to the UK before she steps down as German chancellor.

At Chequers - the UK prime minister's country residence - Boris Johnson announced plans for the German and UK cabinets to meet annually to “discuss shared issues" and also spoke about a number of new common scientific projects between Germany and Britain.

Johnson also praised Merkel's global diplomacy and leadership. The pair spoke about the ongoing issues over the Northern Ireland protocol. Chancellor Merkel reiterated that there are pragmatic solutions to be found.

London struck an agreement with Brussels this week on an extension to the grace period for chilled meats sent from Britain to Northern Ireland.

But the overall dispute over post-Brexit trade arrangements contained in the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the binding UK-EU divorce treaty, remain unresolved. EU rules continue to apply in the UK territory, to maintain an open border with the Irish Republic, an EU member.

Merkel has been less forthright in her criticism of the British stance than some other European leaders, calling for a "pragmatic solution" to differences over the Brexit deal and sought to downplay tensions during her visit.

“It is, now that Britain has left the European Union, a good opportunity to open a new chapter in our relationship,” she said at a press conference.

"We would be very happy on the German side to work together on a friendship treaty or a cooperation treaty, which would reflect the whole breadth of relations."

Coronavirus overshadows current relations

Despite the success of its vaccine rollout, with six out of 10 adults fully inoculated against COVID-19, in recent weeks the United Kingdom has been facing an onslaught of infections of the Delta variant, originally detected in India.

The German leader has called in vain for the EU's 27 countries to impose quarantine on visitors from the UK to prevent the variant's spread across the continent. In contrast, the British prime minister wants gradually to lift the current obligation to quarantine among fully vaccinated travellers when they return from most EU countries.

Merkel said on Friday double-jabbed Britons should be able to travel to Germany without quarantine in the “foreseeable future."

But she expressed “grave concern” to Johnson over the number of fans being allowed into Wembley Stadium for the latter stages of the European Football Championship given high levels of infection of the more contagious delta variant of coronavirus in the U.K.

Earlier this week Germany's interior and sports minister called on the British government and UEFA to cut the number of supporters allowed into Wembley for the remaining matches.

However, Germany's health minister said on Thursday that the country could ease travel restrictions from countries like Portugal and Britain, as in any case Berlin expects the Delta variant to account for up to 80% of infections this month.

The UK reported another 28,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. The country has suffered more than 128,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Angela Merkel met Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle and received a scientific prize created in her honour.

For her 22nd visit to the UK since she came to power in 2005, the German Chancellor met Boris Johnson at Chequers, the country residence of British prime ministers and addressed the British cabinet by videolink, the first world leader to do so since US President Bill Clinton in 1997.

"The UK and Germany have a steadfast friendship and a shared outlook on many issues. Our scientists, innovators and industrialists work together every day to make the world a better place," Johnson said in a statement released by Downing Street.

In recognition of her background as a scientist, the prime minister announced a new annual prize of £10,000 (€11,600) for a UK or Germany-based female scientist who has excelled in astrophysics. The medal will be named after Caroline Herschel, a German-born British pioneer in the field.