Boris Johnson Says Irish Sea Border ‘Over My Dead Body’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned he would allow a post-Brexit border down the Irish Sea “over my dead body,” just days after pledging to help Northern Irish businesses cope with a new wave of customs red tape after the U.K. leaves the European Union.

Johnson made the comment during a visit to Belfast in Northern Ireland, where he also said businesses in the region would have unfettered access to England, Scotland and Wales after Brexit, according to the Press Association.

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement signed by Johnson in late 2019 effectively creates a customs border in the Irish Sea, where goods crossing from the rest of the U.K. to Northern Ireland must comply with EU rules and pay any potential post-Brexit tariffs. The solution was designed to avoid creating a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Last week, Johnson’s governmentpledged 355 million pounds ($464 million) to help companies complete the extra paperwork required to move goods into Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K., which will include customs declarations and health documents for products of animal origin. The British government is also building new infrastructure at Northern Irish ports to handle extra checks on trade.

Exporters wishing to move goods into Northern Ireland will also need to use a new government ITsystem, the Goods Vehicle Movement Service, to gain a valid reference to cross the Irish Sea. Without a reference, a truck will not be allowed to board a ferry going to Northern Ireland, according to draft government plans.

In a statement after meeting his Irish counterpart Michael Martin, Johnson’s office said he reiterated his determination to achieve a free-trade agreement with the EU, which would obviate the need for paying tariffs on trade between the U.K. and Northern Ireland.

“Our priority remains protecting Northern Ireland’s place in our United Kingdom and preserving the huge gains from the peace process,” Johnson’s office said.

In comments broadcast by RTE, Martin said he agreed with Johnson on the “absolute necessity” for a free-trade deal that would be tariff- and quota-free, and said he’d been assured by the British prime minister that the U.K. is “very committed” to reaching a comprehensive agreement with EU.

— With assistance by Dara Doyle, and Robert Hutton

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