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DUP Conference: Brexiteer Boris Johnson calls for backstop to be 'junked'

Boris Johnson at the DUP annual conference on Saturday. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press.

BORIS Johnson has joined the DUP in calling for the ditching of the backstop in the UK-EU withdrawal deal.

The former foreign secretary and leading Brexiteer said the guarantee to avoid a hard border would leave Britain a “satellite state” of the EU and turn Northern Ireland into an "economic semi-colony”.

Mr Johnson, who resigned from the Tory cabinet in July in protest over Theresa May’s so-called Chequers Brexit plan, was guest speaker at Saturday’s DUP conference in Belfast.

“Unless we junk this backstop, we will find that Brussels has got us exactly where they want us – a satellite state,” he told a receptive audience.

“We will continue to accept the terms under which they have a surplus in trade in goods with us of £95 billion pounds but with no power to influence those terms.”

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He said Northern Ireland was the EU’s “indispensable bargaining chip” in the next round of negotiations and that in the withdrawal agreement “we are witnessing the birth of a new country called UKNI”, a place no longer exclusively ruled by London or Stormont but governed for a “large part” by Brussels.

He said the pact between the Conservative-DUP pact forged in the aftermath of last year’s general election had “supplied the essential components” that enabled the Tory government to stay in power.

“Without you it is likely that the mighty engine of the UK economy would have stuttered and stalled,” he said.

“And indeed if it was not for you then there is a risk that the union itself would have been placed in jeopardy.”

Had it not been for the confidence and supply deal, Mr Johnson said, “the government of the whole UK could have been handed over to Jeremy Corbyn”.

“… this is a man who has not only campaigned for a united ireland but who has still – to the best of my knowledge – failed to condemn the terrorist atrocities of the IRA,” he said.

Ahead of the former foreign secretary’s appearance, the conference heard DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds urge Mrs May to “bin the backstop”.

He said it wasn’t too late for the Tory leader to “change course”.

"Don't believe the propaganda that it's too late - it isn’t,” the North Belfast MP said.

"The DUP wants a deal with the European Union, we understand that businesses, families and communities want certainty.”

The conference also heard from Samantha Sacramento, a government minister from Gibraltar, that the British territory would “not be bullied” by Spain's Brexit demands.

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