Friday 24 May 2019

Boris Johnson dismisses concerns about hard border post Brexit

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: PA
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: PA Newsdesk Newsdesk

Boris Johnson dismissed concerns that leaving the customs union could lead to a hard Irish border by comparing travel between the Republic and Northern Ireland to crossing London boroughs, in an apparent reference to the congestion charge for drivers, which does not require checks on the road.

The UK's Foreign Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We think that we can have very efficient facilitation systems to make sure that there's no need for a hard border, excessive checks at the frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"There's no border between Islington or Camden and Westminster, 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 added: "It's a very relevant comparison because there's all sorts of scope for pre-booking, electronic checks, all sorts of things that you can do to obviate the need for a hard border to allow us to come out of the customs union, take back control of our trade policy and do trade deals."

Mr Johnson's comment comes after Tasoiseach Leo Varadkar held a telephone conversation with UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday evening.

Under London's post-Brexit trade plan the UK would examine existing regulations and decide whether it wants to maintain, alter or abandon them in certain areas.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said: "The Taoiseach also repeated the necessity from the EU side to have the detail of the backstop option of full regulatory alignment spelled out in the draft legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement.

"This option would only come into effect if agreement on one of the other options is not reached."

They discussed Brexit and, in particular, the draft withdrawal agreement.

The spokesman added: "Both the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister said they want the options, as set out in the December Joint Report, to be examined in detail.

"This would include the preferred option of a satisfactory solution to the border problem being found within the overall future relationship between the EU and the UK."

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