DUP Conference: Brexiteer Boris Johnson calls for backstop to be 'junked'
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.”
- Arlene Foster says sorry for party's role in botched RHI scheme
- Analysis: Conference comes at key juncture for DUP
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.
"Thank you for your courageous and principled stance" - Boris Johnson has urged the DUP conference to 'keep the Confidence and Supply arrangement going'.— Sky News Politics (@SkyNewsPolitics) November 24, 2018
Follow live updates here: https://t.co/q3dfYNg43d pic.twitter.com/q2KlagriR4
“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.”
I’ve been to four party conferences this year. Boris Johnson has just received the loudest reception of them all...at the DUP’s conference in Belfast pic.twitter.com/RBgb7MrMbS— Harry Yorke (@HarryYorke1) November 24, 2018
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”.
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson says he attended the DUP conference in Belfast to support the DUP policy of a strong union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.— Sky News Politics (@SkyNewsPolitics) November 24, 2018
Follow his speech live here: https://t.co/st7IB6JUiU pic.twitter.com/ptNslpgWGi
"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.