Brexit

Boris Johnson rules out Northern Ireland-only backstop

An electronic road sign on the A2 in Gravesend warning of possible changes to EU paperwork post-Brexit Picture by Yui Mok/PA

THE British prime minister has rejected the idea of using a Northern Ireland-only backstop to solve the Brexit impasse, dismissing the idea during a stage-managed Downing Street event in which he answered questions via social media.

The self-styled “People’s PMQs” saw Boris Johnson spend slightly under 14 minutes answering pre-selected voters’ questions on a live Facebook feed from Downing Street, with no follow-up or scrutiny of his answers.

Answering one question on the backstop Mr Johnson again ruled out the idea of having this just for the north – which would create a trade border in the Irish sea.

“I’ve seen a bit of chatter about this, stuff in the media about this – we will not accept a Northern Ireland-only backstop,” Johnson told viewers. That simply doesn’t work for the UK," he said.

However, he also reaffirmed his wider opposition to the backstop insisting that it "is going to be removed".

"Because that’s the only way to get a deal. The UK parliament will not accept the current withdrawal agreement, there’s no way that is going through.”

Meanwhile, government documents released yesterday revealed that a no-deal Brexit could trigger major hold-ups at channel ports, electricity price increases, shortages of some foods and delays to medicine imports, government documents reveal.

Read More: No-deal Brexit: What will happen on Day One?

HGV delays of between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half days would occur at Dover and public disorder could increase, according to Operation Yellowhammer "reasonable worst case planning assumptions" released in response to MPs voting for the disclosure.

The document says: "There are likely to be significant electricity (price) increases for consumers.

"Protests and counter-protests will take place across the UK and may absorb significant amounts of police resource.

"There may also be a rise in public disorder and community tensions."

The government describes the scenario outlined in the document, part of which has been redacted, as the "reasonable worst case scenario".

On food, it warns that some fresh supplies will decrease and that "critical dependencies for the food chain" such as key ingredients "may be in shorter supply".

It says these factors would not lead to overall food shortages "but will reduce the availability and choice of products and will increase price, which could impact vulnerable groups".

The document also says: "Low-income groups will be disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel."

The analysis says the flow of cross-channel goods could be reduced to 40 per cent of present rates on day one, with "significant disruption lasting up to six months".

"Unmitigated, this will have an impact on the supply of medicines and medical supplies," it says.

"The reliance of medicines and medical products' supply chains on the short straits crossing make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays."

The release of the document came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson was facing furious demands for the immediate recall of MPs to Westminster after the suspension of Parliament was ruled unlawful by Scotland's highest civil court.

The document's assumptions are "as of August 2" this year, and it notes that day one after the scheduled EU exit on October 31 is a Friday, "which may not be to our advantage" and may coincide with the end of the October half-term school holidays.

The document says UK citizens travelling to and from the EU "may be subject to increased immigration checks at EU border posts".

The information, which had been leaked last month, was officially released following a Commons motion put down by former Tory attorney general Dominic Grieve.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: "These documents confirm the severe risks of a no-deal Brexit.

"Boris Johnson must now admit that he has been dishonest with the British people about the consequence of a no-deal Brexit.

"It is also now more important than ever that Parliament is recalled and has the opportunity to scrutinise these documents and take all steps necessary to stop no deal."

As no deal becomes more likely the the Republic's finance minister has confirmed that he will prepare the state's budget for a no-deal Brexit.

Paschal Donohoe said he is making the decision to give certainty to businesses and people, to safeguard the national finances and to avoid the reversal of decisions in the future.

Mr Donohoe also ruled out cuts to income and personal taxes, adding that changes to the tax code will be "minimal".

He also said that increases will be made to social welfare payments that will target the most vulnerable.

"We will have a social welfare package in the budget but it will be different in scale to previous years," he said.

"The government will, of course, put in place the resources that are needed to support citizens at a time of change and difficulty, and to put in place the provision that may be needed to accommodate a reduced tax take due to fewer people at work.

In what he described as a "safe and careful budget", Mr Donohoe said it will focus on ensuring the government has the resources it needs to be ready for a shock at the end of October when the UK is due to leave the European Union.

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