Northern Ireland news

Boris Johnson re-iterates calls for bridge linking Ireland and Britain

Former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson has called for a bridge to be built between Ireland and Britain. Picture by Victoria Jones/PA Wire
John Monaghan

THE former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson has re-iterated calls for a bridge to be built between Ireland and Britain.

Mr Johnson resigned from Theresa May's cabinet in July in protest at the prime minister's plans for a Brexit deal.

"What we need to do is build a bridge between our islands. Why don't we? Why don't we?

"There is so much more we can do, and what grieves me about the current approach to Brexit is that we are just in danger of not believing in ourselves, not believing in Britain," he told The Sunday Times.

Mr Johnson did not expand further on his thoughts, but in June a source close to him was quoted as saying that the Conservative MP believed a bridge between Scotland and the north "should be looked at more seriously".

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Bridges have been suggested between either Larne or Bangor and Portpatrick in south-west Scotland.

 A bridge from Ireland to Scotland could cost around £20bn

However, the complexities and cost have been a major stumbling block to progress on the plans, with the stretch of sea three times deeper than the English Channel separating England and France.

 

 

The idea has previously been floated by the DUP, which proposed a feasibility study into the suggestion in 2015.

Earlier this year DUP leader Arlene Foster told an Orange Order parade in Scotland that there was "growing support" for the project.

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"The connection between our two countries has always been special," she said.

"What better way to cement that relationship than through a bridge?

"Whilst some foolishly attempt to use Brexit to build a border between Scotland and Northern Ireland, we are more progressive, we want to build a bridge."

At the time the former Alliance minister Stephen Farry said that it was incredible that the DUP were "still peddling this nonsense" which is "not currently feasible".

Responding to Mrs Foster's comments, a Scottish government spokesman said that "as with all proposed infrastructure investment, decisions would need to be founded on a robust business case."

Mr Johnson also accused the prime minister of misleading him about plans for the Irish border, when Mrs May agreed to a deal with the EU last December which included a reference to the "backstop".

Aimed at avoiding a hard border, the "backstop" - deemed unacceptable by the DUP - would see the north remain in the EU customs union and large parts of the single market in the event of no overall Brexit agreement.

The former foreign secretary has claimed he only agreed to support the plan because he was "absolutely reassured that this was just a form of words that was necessary to float the negotiations off the rocks".

"What has happened is that the issue has been allowed to dominate in a way that we were expressly promised would not happen."

In a separate interview, Mrs May said that "the only proposal on the table at the moment that delivers is the Chequers plan".

"But what I've said to the EU is, you know, 'if you have counter-proposals, come forward with those counter-proposals'."

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