Scrap the Irish border backstop, Boris Johnson urges prime minister in News Letter article

Boris Johnson's hard hitting article on Brexit is in Saturday's print edition of the Belfast News Letter, and will be put online later on Saturday
Boris Johnson's hard hitting article on Brexit is in Saturday's print edition of the Belfast News Letter, and will be put online later on Saturday

Boris Johnson today renews his call on Downing Street to scrap the Irish backstop.

Writing in today’s Belfast News Letter (see link to the full essay below), the influential Tory MP said it was “now completely obvious that the government made a dreadful mistake in December last year” agreeing the border backstop.

The former foreign secretary says that the agreement then between Britain and the EU not to have any checks at the Irish land frontier has severe implications for “the unity of the United Kingdom”.

The MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip says: “The only way to put things back on the right track is to ditch the backstop and then to chuck Chequers.”

His essay on the Brexit crisis, which is printed in full inside, comes as London is finalising its revised proposals for the backstop before important talks with the European Union.

There is mounting speculation that the DUP will vote against Theresa May’s administration in key votes if she agrees a regulatory border in the Irish Sea, that would in effect leave Northern Ireland in the EU single market.

The government has for months ruled out an internal UK border, but has increasingly added the word “customs” to any references to an Irish Sea border, which leaves open the prospect of border for goods.

Mr Johnson writes: “The fatal error was not to challenge the EU’s position that the only way of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland — an objective we all share — is for Northern Ireland to have the same regulations for trade as Ireland and the rest of the EU.

“Instead, our government has accepted that argument, seemingly adding, wrongly, that to do otherwise would be a breach of the spirit of the Belfast Agreement.”

He adds: “The government well understands how weak the backstop makes its future negotiating hand — which is why it has proposed Chequers ... If we let this go it will be the greatest national humiliation since Suez.”

He says: “The right answer of course is to reject the premise of the December 2017 agreement, ie that Ireland and UK cannot have different rules without a hard border.”

• Boris Johnson’s full essay is in the Saturday print edition and is also now online here