Boris Johnson promised no customs checks in NI, months after privately agreeing to customs checks

Moya Lothian-McLean@moya_lm
Thursday 14 May 2020 08:00
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(Getty)

Boris Johnson faces more accusations of misleading the public after the government confirmed that, despite claims to the contrary by Johnson, there will be checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea.

In a letter to officials in Stormont, the government finally conceded that there would be border control posts established in the Northern Irish ports of Belfast, Warrenpoint and Larne. This was agreed last October.

This directly contradicts repeated affirmations to the contrary by Johnson, who was filmed in November 2019, telling exporters there would be no extra paperwork or customs checks on goods travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

“Can I go back to my country in the morning and tell myself we will not be filling in any customs declarations for goods leaving Northern Ireland and going to GB?” Johnson was asked.

“You will absolutely not have… and if someone asks you to do that, tell them to ring up the prime minister and I will direct them to throw their form in the bin,” he replied.

Hopefully he primed his secretary, given just weeks before the clip was filmed, Johnson had agreed checks on goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Johnson went on to claim that Northern Irish exporters would have:

No forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind. You will have unfettered access.

Johnson has repeatedly asserted that he would not enforce customs checks on goods travelling that route, saying again in January 2020 that he could not see “any circumstances whatever in which there will be any need for checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to GB”.

The EU had always maintained there would have to be checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea, with chief negotiator Michael Barnier confirming in January that there would be checks and that he “[looked] forward to constructive cooperation with British authorities to ensure that all provisions are respected and made operational.”

Under the terms of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, Northern Ireland will continue following EU customs code which entails customs declarations and checks.

Regarding Johnson’s comments, the Cabinet Office said the new regulations had “always been clear”.

 We have always been clear that there will be requirements for live animals and agri-food, building on what already happens at ports like Larne and Belfast.

We want to work with NI businesses and the executive to ensure new admin procedures are streamlined and efficient. The protocol puts legal obligations on both sides. We are committed to complying with ours, just as we expect the EU to comply with theirs.

Boris Johnson is either telling bold-faced lies or has a terrible, terrible memory.

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