Johnson Lays on Royal Welcome for Merkel on Her Final U.K. Visit
(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Boris Johnson is piling on the charm for Angela Merkel on her final U.K. visit as chancellor, reaching out to Germany after five years of tension over Brexit.
Merkel, who plans to stand down in the fall, is due to visit Johnson at Chequers, his country retreat, and Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle on Friday. The German leader will enjoy the rare privilege for a foreign leader of addressing the U.K. cabinet. To cap the visit, Johnson will announce an academic medal in Merkel’s honor.
“Over the 16 years of Chancellor Merkel’s tenure the U.K.-Germany relationship has been re-energized and re-invigorated for a new era,” Johnson said in a statement. “Our scientists, innovators and industrialists work together every day to make the world a better place.”
The warm reception contrasts with the U.K.’s fractious divorce from the European Union, which soured relationships with Germany and other EU countries. Strains also emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic as the U.K. clashed with the EU over the trade in vaccines.
There is also a message from Johnson to her successor that the U.K. wants to burnish ties with Germany now that it has left the EU.
Strains are still in evidence after the U.K. and the bloc squabbled last month over the trade of chilled meats between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, which remains tethered to EU rules under the Brexit deal brokered by Johnson -- a clash dubbed the “sausage war” by U.K. media.
The coronavirus pandemic is also weighing on the relationship after Merkel last month sought to persuade the EU to tighten restrictions on travelers from countries with high rates of the delta variant, including the U.K. The effort came just as Britain relaxed rules on traveling to holiday spots such as Malta and Spain’s Balearic Islands.
Spokesmen for Johnson and Merkel said they expect them to discuss the response to the pandemic and international travel rules. Health Minister Jens Spahn said Thursday that Germany may ease travel restrictions on arrivals from the U.K.
The visit is Merkel’s 22nd to the U.K. as chancellor. She’ll first head to Chequers to discuss deepening bilateral ties. She’ll be the first foreign leader to address the U.K. cabinet, albeit virtually, since U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1997.
And the leaders plan to announce annual joint meetings of the U.K. and German cabinets, a new cultural dialog between the two countries and increased funding for youth exchanges.
To mark the visit by Merkel -- a physicist by training -- Johnson is also due to unveil an academic medal in her honor.
The 10,000-pound ($13,800) prize, named after the German-born British astrophysicist Caroline Herschel, will be given every year to a U.K. or Germany-based female scientist who has excelled in astrophysics.
But perhaps the highlight for Merkel will be the audience with the queen on Friday afternoon, a mark of respect for the chancellor who has led Germany since 2005. After last month’s Group of Seven summit in Cornwall, Merkel said the meeting there with the 95-year-old monarch “was a special experience for everybody.”
One topic Johnson may want to avoid is England’s 2-0 defeat of Germany in soccer’s European Championship on Tuesday.
Merkel, a soccer fan, was “quite sad” about the loss, according to her spokesman Steffen Seibert.
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