PM said there would be no checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to rest of UK
Prime Minister Boris Johnson made an unusual and very revealing comment on Thursday night which accidentally makes an incredibly compelling argument against his own Brexit deal.
Speaking at a meeting of local Conservatives in Northern Ireland on Thursday evening, the prime minister said: "Actually, Northern Ireland has got a great deal. You keep free movement, you keep access to the single market, but you also, as it says in the deal, have unfettered access to [Great Britain]."
Boris Johnson has declared he will not “implement” or “enact” checks on goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain despite arrangements for customs controls under the Brexit deal he agreed last month with the EU.
In a visit to Northern Ireland, he told business representatives that elements of his Brexit deal related to exports from the region were greatly “misunderstood” and did not involve physical checks of goods.
But the prime minister was himself accused of misunderstanding the deal he negotiated as video of his speech appeared online.
The issue goes to the heart of the collapse of the government’s relations with the Democratic Unionist party, which has branded the Brexit deal a “disgrace” because of the new customs paperwork local businesses selling goods to Great Britain will be required to complete.
On a flying visit to a Tayto crisp factory in Tandragee, County Armagh, Johnson insisted his critics had got the wrong end of the stick.
He said: “There will not be checks, and I speak as the prime minister of the United Kingdom, and a passionate unionist. There will not be checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain because we’re the government of the United Kingdom and we will not institute or implement or enact such checks.
“The idea that Tayto crisps from Tandragee are going be vetted by some process is just nonsense.”
His remarks were met with incredulity as the video of his speech went viral overnight. Anna Jerzewska, a customs expert, pointed out the customs controls were in the Brexit deal to facilitate the international trade deals Johnson wants while keeping the Irish border open.
The checks and new paperwork would be needed to ensure goods from the Republic of Ireland were not smuggled into Britain through Northern Ireland.