Sunday 18 August 2019

'Border is pure millennium bug stuff': How Tory leader saw rising threat of border


Boris Johnson. Photo: PA
Boris Johnson. Photo: PA
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

On his only visit to Ireland as UK foreign secretary in November 2017, Boris Johnson declared it was great to be back in Dublin "where I spent many happy afternoons in my youth".

Standing alongside Tánaiste Simon Coveney, he spoke of having sampled stout on a trip to Nigeria: "I was lucky enough to drink Guinness and I won't say it was brewed by the waters of the Liffey but culturally and spiritually it plainly derived from Ireland like so many other great things around the world."

It was a moment of light relief in a press conference notable for just how much Mr Johnson and Mr Coveney disagreed on Brexit issues.

Afterwards, Mr Johnson confided in his Irish counterpart that the media would write about how far apart the two men were. "But we are far apart!" Mr Coveney is said to have responded.

Three months after his visit, Mr Johnson suggested that Irish Border checks could be managed in a similar way to how London administered the congestion charge.

"There's no border between Camden and Westminster, but when I was mayor of London we anaesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people travelling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks whatever," he said.

Similarly, in June 2018, Mr Johnson dismissed concerns about the Border as "pure millennium bug stuff".

Mr Johnson was paid nearly €60,000 to appear at the Pendulum Summit in Dublin last January but he offered no solutions to the Brexit impasse, instead insisting: "Our two countries should be bold together."

Mr Johnson also joked about how he had "exported" his own daughter to Ireland as she was studying at Trinity College.

On the North, Mr Johnson interviewed the late Martin McGuinness for 'The Spectator' in 2000.

He expressed hope that the Sinn Féin man "and his kind lose their instinct for terror, and discover the delights of spending taxpayers' money on schools and riding in Rovers paid for by the state he would destroy".

Irish Independent

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