Merkel travelled to the UK on Friday for the last time as German Chancellor shortly before the end of her term in office. She met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Chequers before visiting Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.
True to his character, Johnson opened the press statement with a bit of a dig: he joked with Merkel that Germany had broken with its tradition of beating England in football.
Mentioning the German chancellor’s 22 visits to the UK during her 16 years in power, Johnson said: “In the course of that time some things have changed beyond recognition but for much of your tenure it was certainly a tradition, Angela, for England to lose to Germany in international football tournaments.
“I’m obviously grateful to you for breaking with that tradition, just for once.”
'For much of your tenure it was certainly a tradition for England to lose to Germany in international football tournaments'
— ITV News Politics (@ITVNewsPolitics) July 2, 2021
Merkel said: “You deserved it… we were a little bit sad but now the best of luck to the British team.”
Easing travel rules for vaccinated people
One of the main themes of discussion was Covid travel restrictions.
Currently Germany classes the UK as a ‘virus variant area of concern’. Travel is banned from the UK with some exceptions such as for citizens and residents. Those who are allowed into Germany have to quarantine for 14 days – even if vaccinated.
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But that could change soon. Merkel pointed out that the Delta variant, which has pushed cases up in the UK, is “increasing very rapidly” in Germany.
Echoing her Health Minister Jens Spahn who spoke out about downgrading the risk status of countries where the Delta variant is widespread on Thursday, Merkel said that Germany could soon reclassify the UK as a ‘high incidence’ area, meaning fully-jabbed arrivals from the UK would no longer have to quarantine.
“We think that in the foreseeable future those who have received double jabs will then according to our classification… be able to travel again without going into quarantine,” she said.
Merkel recently pushed for all EU countries to take a hard line and quarantine UK arrivals due to the Delta variant.
However, the UK also has tough restrictions for German arrivals. As Germany is an amber country, people arriving there have to do a 10-day quarantine and pay for two mandatory tests on day two and day eight.
Johnson said that progress was being made on quarantine-free travel but added that the tough restrictions that the UK has on people coming from Germany are “quite right”.
Euro 2020 finals
Football was back on the agenda but this time for a different reason. Merkel said she was worried about the number of fans and packed stadiums at Euro 2020 games in London.
She said: “I say this with grave concern. We in Germany as you know, decided to have less people attend games in the Munich stadium but the British government obviously will take his own decision, but I’m very concerned on whether it’s not a bit too much.”
Johnson said the UK had built up a “wall of immunity” due to high vaccination coverage, and said the UK had been “very cautious” at every stage.
On the topic of Brexit, Johnson said the dispute over some meats being transport to Northern Ireland from Britain would soon be solved. Confusingly, he compared the row to Bratwurst being moved between two German cities in the same state.
He said: “Imagine if Bratwurst could not be moved from Dortmund to Düsseldorf because of the jurisdiction of an international court – you’d think it was absolutely extraordinary. So we have to sort it out. I’m sure, as Angela says, with goodwill and with patience we can sort it out.
“Hopefully, as we said at our bilateral, when it comes to chilled meats the ‘wurst’ is behind us, as I think Angela said, or maybe I said that.”
Here we go again …
The reason no one is "stopping Bratwurst going from Dortmund to Düsseldorf" is because Merkel didn't split up her country by signing an international treaty with no intention of respecting it … pic.twitter.com/7ZMwUKioeS
— Alex Taylor (@AlexTaylorNews) July 2, 2021
Merkel said she hoped that cooperation in the economic and cultural spheres would continue after Brexit.
The Chancellor urged for more cooperation so that young people from Germany and the UK could take part in exchanges.
In true Merkel style, when she was asked to sum up her feelings on Johnson she had this to say: “We look at each other, we look at how different people can be and we make the best of it.”
Asked to sum up how she feels about Boris Johnson as a person, Angela Merkel replies: "We look at each other, we look at how different people can be and we make the best of it…."
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) July 2, 2021
What else happened at the meeting?
Johnson has clashed repeatedly with Merkel over Brexit, but rolled out the red carpet for her final visit as both countries look to a new chapter following Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The visit included her addressing a virtual meeting of the British cabinet, reported AFP. The last leader to do so was US president Bill Clinton in 1997.
“Over the 16 years of Chancellor Merkel’s tenure the UK-Germany relationship has been re-energised and re-invigorated for a new era,” said Johnson.
The pair held a working lunch, with beef fillet and custard tart on the menu, where they discussed Britain’s fractious post-Brexit relationship with the EU.
He announced the creation of a new academic medal in her honour.
The £10,000 (11,610 euros) award will be given every year to a woman in the UK or Germany who has excelled in the field of astrophysics.
Merkel was also due to meet Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, west of London. She heads to Washington later this month to meet US President Joe Biden.