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BERLIN, July 19 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that if Brexit negotiations found a solution for the Irish border issue in the declaration on future ties between Britain and the European Union, the so-called backstop would effectively be overwritten.
The backstop, which is contested by leading British politicians who want it changed or scrapped, requires Britain to adopt some EU rules unless a future arrangement is found to keep open the land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The now-invisible frontier between the British province and EU member Ireland is Britain’s only land border with the bloc.
“The Withdrawal Agreement is the Withdrawal Agreement,” Merkel told a news conference.
“But the moment that a solution for the management of the border is found in (the declaration on) the future relationship — so for the European Union’s future ties to Britain — which basically squares the circle — on the one hand I have no physical border but on the other hand the EU Single Market ends — that satisfies both questions, then the backstop will be overwritten, so to speak.”
Merkel added: “This means the task is to draft future relations that way and perhaps to draft them more specifically and better and more precisely than so far.”
Then there is scope to come to an agreement and determine future relations, Merkel said.
Opposition to the backstop within Britain’s deeply divided parliament was one of the key reasons outgoing Prime Minister May’s deal was rejected three times by lawmakers — losses that ultimately forced her to resign.
Eliminating a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and providing frictionless trade was a crucial part of a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of sectarian violence. (Reporting by Michelle Martin and Thomas Seythal Editing by Paul Carrel and Catherine Evans)