Boris Johnson hails 'great' Brexit deal that gives Northern Ireland access to the EU single market
BRITISH Prime Minister Boris Johnson's has told Northern Ireland Tories that the Withdrawal Agreement he agreed with the EU last month is a "great deal" for Northern Ireland because it gives the region "access to the single market".
A widely circulated video of Mr Johnson talking to members of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland on Thursday evening shows him talking up his exit terms with the EU for its ability to keep single market access and free movement for Northern Ireland.
The video was shot by a member of the NI Conservatives before being posted on Twitter by Manufacturing NI,
It shows that Mr Johnson is not necessarily across all the detail of the deal he attempted to push through Westminster.
He appeared to contradict evidence given by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay by telling supporters that goods between Northern Ireland and Britain would not face checks as a result of the latest withdrawal agreement.
Mr Barclay had told MPs that "minimal targeted interventions" would be required on some goods travelling from Britain because Northern Ireland would remain aligned with Dublin and Brussels rules for the trade of goods.
But the Tory leader said his government would "not enact such checks".
He reiterated the comment yesterday during a hospital visit in Mansfield when quizzed by journalists.
"Northern Ireland and the rest of GB are part of the UK customs territory and there can be no checks between goods operating in one customs territory," he told them.
"We're the UK. We will not be instituting such checks."
In the original comments on Thursday, he said: "There will not be tariffs or checks on goods coming from GB to Northern Ireland that are not going on to Ireland.
"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 are the government of the United Kingdom and we will not institute or implement or enact such checks.
"And the idea that Tayto crisps from Tandragee are going to be vetted by some process, it is just nonsense."
He also said that Brussels was forthcoming with a Brexit deal because European leaders feared the repercussions of Britain making the "irrational" decision to leave without a deal.
"Even though they could see what the Benn Act was doing to us and how difficult it was, they were not quite sure whether the UK government was going to be sufficiently irrational, as they saw it, as to come out with (no-deal)," he added.
The Liberal Democrats criticised the prime minister's comments and his apparent desire to treat the north differently to Britain.
His Brexit deal with the EU will see Britain leave the single market and customs union but with Northern Ireland following different rules to prevent a hard border.
Tom Brake, the Lib Dems' Brexit spokesman, said: "The single market and freedom of movement are a great deal - even Boris Johnson recognises this.
"So why isn't he keeping them for the whole of the UK as part of the many benefits of EU membership?
"It is clear that the best deal for the UK is the one we have now - in the EU," said the anti-Brexit politician.
The former London mayor looked to clarify his comments when interviewed by broadcasters yesterday.
"I'm not going to hide it from you that Northern Ireland has a good deal but so does the the whole of the UK," the prime minister said.