Northern Ireland news

Listen: Boris Johnson denies betraying DUP over Irish Sea regulatory border

Boris Johnson said there would be a border in the Irish Sea 'over my dead body'. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

BRITISH Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that he did not betray his former allies in the DUP by putting a regulatory border down the Irish Sea.

The Tory leader said he "did neither thing" when quizzed by The Irish News on events that led to Westminster's support for the withdrawal agreement, which includes new regulatory checks on goods moving from Britain to the north.

DUP leader Arlene Foster previously accused Mr Johnson of breaking his word over the Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.

When a guest at the DUP's conference in 2018, the former foreign secretary insisted there would be no trade barriers between Britain and the north.

Last week, the British government unveiled plans for a £355 million package that would ease the financial burden on Northern Ireland businesses importing goods from Britain and the rest of the world.

The prime minister said yesterday there would only be a trade border in the Irish Sea "over my dead body".

He repeated his assertion that there would be "unfettered access" for the north's firms into markets in Britain.

Mr Johnson said he had also agreed to "intensify" partnership arrangements with the Republic and said more work could be done on bilateral deals.

But Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said the Tory leader's claim that businesses could "tear up" any requirement for documentation had "been shown to be a sham" by last week's announcement of Trader Support Service for cross-channel imports.

Yesterday Mr Johnson said he hoped for greater co-operation with the Republic after Britain leaves the EU.

"We did not do enough bilaterally, we did not do enough to build up the links and the kind of ideas and projects we are talking about," he said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said both sides knew that they needed to avoid another economic shock following Covid-19.

"I think where there's a will, there's a way – it seems to me that there is a landing zone if that will is there on both sides and I think it is, on the European Union side and on the British side to find that landing zone," the Fianna Fáil leader said.

"My own gut instinct is we both understand that we don't need another shock to the economic system that a no-deal Brexit would give or a sub-optimal trade agreement would give to our respective economies across Europe, Ireland and of course within Great Britain itself alongside the enormous shock that Covid has already given."

Mr Martin said he and Boris Johnson also discussed travel restrictions necessitated by Covid-19.

At present, people travelling into the Republic from Great Britain need to self-isolate for 14 days. The UK does not apply the same restrictions on travellers from Ireland.

The taoiseach said the prime minister had raised the prospect of the UK introducing further travel restrictions in response to outbreaks in other countries.

"It's a moving story every week," said Mr Martin.

"He was outlining initiatives they will have to take in some aspects of travel related to other countries potentially."

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