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Cordial and businesslike tone as leaders agree to seek backstop solution

Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel overcame a nervy start to their meeting and vowed to pool efforts to forge an agreement.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Reporter in Berlin

This was allies meeting for the first time but one of them steps into position knowing they must administer a painful divorce.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is painted as the class clown, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel is depicted as the ever-present powerhouse of European politics.

Neither characterisation is quite true and nor did either play up to it during Mr Johnson’s first visit to Germany as PM on Wednesday August 21.

There was an awkwardness as the pair sat in still silence on cream chairs listening to a military band play their respective national anthems outside the Chancellery, Mrs Merkel’s impressive modern office.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson follows German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The decision to sit in stony silence was not a good look for the new acquaintances but the call could well have come from the Chancellor herself who has been dogged by questions about her own health after having been seen shaking when standing in public.

But the nerves seemed to shake off as the leaders made their way down the red carpet and into the Chancellery in the Berlin sunshine, chatting to one another freely.

There was a noticeable delay between outside picture opportunity and the indoor press conference and a behind-the-scenes discussion seemed to have done the trick in terms of greasing the wheels of a possible friendship.

Mr Johnson was beaming as he heard the Chancellor indicate she was willing to work on a backstop solution.

He was so happy in fact, his translation earpiece almost came off.

And the Conservative Party leader had his counterpart smiling with his own quip, telling the awaiting media: “Wir schaffen es”, a promise to make it work between Britain and Germany during the talks.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He also said he did not think he had ever had a “welcome like that in my life”, a reminder that the newly-appointed UK leader is prepared to do plenty of buttering up to get what he wants.

As the duo headed off for dinner, a starter of tuna tartare, followed by Brandenburg venison and finished off with chocolate tart, Downing Street officials indicated they were pleased with the tone of what Mrs Merkel said.

Mr Johnson had come braced for a frosty reception but there was no stonewalling here.

As Mrs Merkel herself told reporters before they took their leave, Germany is preparing to “get to work” to avoid the fallout of a no-deal Brexit.

PA

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