The photos sent around the world from Checkers are usually good photos, motifs like those from the handbook for politicians presentations, at least the British ones. The British have a soft spot for age-old furniture and the stately building over 60 kilometers northwest of London dates from the 16th century. On Friday there was finally another chance for Boris Johnson to pose in the blue armchairs in front of the fireplace, alongside his colleague from Germany, whom British tabloids sometimes refer to as “Frau Merkel”.
Chancellor Angela Merkel made a short trip to the UK on Friday, but that didn’t detract from its importance. Merkel has been to the UK for the 22nd time during her 16 years in office, but this was her first post-Brexit – and probably her last as Chancellor. The program was tightly timed, including Merkel and Johnson attending the cabinet meeting, making Merkel the first head of government since Bill Clinton in 1997 to receive this honor. After lunch and a walk in Dammen’s certainly beautiful garden, Merkel drove to Windsor for an audience with the Queen. She received the chancellor in a green floral dress. The fact that the Queen met the Chancellor again a few weeks after the G-7 summit was interpreted in Britain as a special gesture.
Politically, however, the conversation with Johnson was of course the most important. There have been a number of issues lately, such as the Northern Ireland Protocol, which should regulate the EU-UK relationship in the Irish Sea, but also travel restrictions between the two countries and the large number of spectators at football matches. in London.
She was optimistic that a solution to the Northern Ireland issue would be found in the next three months, Merkel said when she appeared at a joint fireside press conference with Johnson, but it had to be “step by step”. “we should not overwhelm all”. Travel restrictions are set to be changed soon after the Delta variant has now spread in both countries, but she sees the ratings at Wembley “with great skepticism,” she said, “so does the Prime Minister.” He in turn reaffirmed the high vaccination rate in the kingdom and said there is a “wall of wind resistance” to the virus.
Despite the disagreement over at least this issue, both stressed the importance of the relationship between the two countries, “which we may not have cherished in recent years as much as we could have,” Johnson said. Now is the chance to “open a new chapter,” Merkel said. A few days ago, the two foreign ministers, Heiko Maas and Dominic Raab, signed a letter of intent to intensify cooperation, documented with an annual dialogue.
This is important because it will no longer be so easy to start a conversation after Brexit. When the British were still members of the EU, meetings were held regularly. There were the summits of the heads of state and government, but especially the councils of ministers. For example, once a month there was an opportunity for the British Chancellor of the Exchequer to exchange views with his German counterpart in the margins of a meeting in Brussels. Or met for dinner on the eve of a cabinet meeting. It is these one-on-one conversations that are now sometimes missing.
New communication channels must now be created and the British in particular are noticing how difficult that is in Brussels. The local representation there has increased in terms of staff after Brexit, but it has become much more difficult for the British to obtain information. Because they are no longer at the EU table, they should in principle conduct research like journalists. You should try to find out what was discussed behind closed doors in the circle of the EU. In most cases, the Germans first agree their positions with the EU partners – only then do they talk to third countries. And Britain has been one since Brexit.
Merkel’s visit to Johnson was all the more important. At the end, the chancellor was asked if she could describe how she saw Johnson as a personality, when Johnson shook his head a little confused. “The cooperation has developed very well, otherwise we would not be here today,” Merkel said. And added with a slight smile: “But that’s also because we don’t give each other certificates, but see how different people are and make the best of it.”