Tuesday 17 September 2019

'That simply doesn’t work for the UK' - Boris Johnson rules out Northern Ireland-only backstop

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Government Buildings in Dublin on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Government Buildings in Dublin on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ruled out a Northern Ireland-only backstop being part of a deal to break the Brexit impasse.

Mr Johnson was responding to reports that he is considering plans for a regulatory border in the Irish Sea in a bid to salvage a Brexit deal ahead of the October 31 deadline.

The UK Prime Minister was reported in 'The Telegraph' on Tuesday to be examining plans for an all-Ireland zone for checks on most goods crossing between north and south of the island.

There has also been speculation that Mr Johnson's government could propose a backstop that would only apply to Northern Ireland, with the possibility of a role for the Stormont Assembly before it could be triggered or new EU rules would take effect.

Mr Johnson referred specifically to such media speculation during a Facebook Live Q&A with the public. He insisted: "The crucial thing to understand is we will not accept either a Northern Ireland-only backstop, that simply doesn’t work for the UK.

"We’ve got to come out whole and entire and solve the problems of the Northern Ireland border and I am absolutely certain that we can do that."

Mr Johnson's comments follow a meeting with the DUP leadership in Downing Street on Tuesday night after which the unionist party insisted it had been assured the UK government would not accept a NI-only backstop. Unionist concerns stem from fears that regulatory divergence will break the North's links with the UK.

Answering questions as part of ‘The People’s PMQs’ on Facebook Live, Mr Johnson reiterated that the backstop had to come out of the withdrawal deal, despite the EU's insistence that it cannot be abolished.

"The backstop is going to be removed. I very much hope and I insist because that’s the only way to get a deal. The UK parliament will not accept the current withdrawal agreement, there is no way that is going through," he said.

Mr Johnson repeatedly said that the UK would leave the European on October 31. "What we cannot do is fail to honour the commitment," Mr Johnson said. "To come out of the EU on October 31 and not to extend Article 50."

He said that if the UK could not get not get a new withdrawal deal with the EU before it leaves on October 31st then it will leave with no agreement.

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