It comes as a letter sent by the Foreign Secretary to the Prime Minister emerged, saying that the Government’s focus should be on preventing a “significantly” harder border.
Speaking to reporters after returning from a jog in the snow, he said: “What is going on at the moment is that the issue of the Northern Irish border is being used quite a lot politically to try and keep the UK in the customs union – effectively the single market – so we cannot really leave the EU, that is what is going on.
“What the letter says is that, actually, there are are very good solutions that you could put in place that would obviate, prevent any kind of hard border but would allow goods, people – people of course move totally freely anyway because of the common travel area – allow goods to move freely without let or hindrance whilst allowing the UK to come out of the customs union, take back control of our tariffs schedules, take back control of our commercial policy, take back control of our regulation. It is a very positive letter.”
He continued: “The DUP, as far as I understand the matter, are worried about the possibility of an east-west border which would be necessitated by having a system on the island of Ireland that didn’t allow for some sort of verification of traders going north-south, but what the letter points out is that there are all sorts of ways of doing that without having a hard border.”
Johnson provoked ridicule and exasperation on Tuesday when he compared the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to the border between Camden and Westminster in London.
Johnson today repeated the assertion, asking a reporter: “I don’t know whether you have ever driven into the congestion charge zone from outside the congestion charge zone – have you?
“Do you slow down? Do you feel any let or hindrance? Do you check your progress? Do you brake? Do you?”
Asked if this meant that Ireland could expect a Transport for London-style border, he replied: “All I’m saying is there are solutions that we can envisage, we have got to be positive about this.
“We can do this – we can come out of the customs union while solving the Northern Ireland border problem and we must not allow this great sort of inverted pyramid of objections to be built over this problem, which I think is eminently solvable.”
He added: “I think the particular problem around the Irish border is being used politically to drive the whole Brexit argument and effectively to try and frustrate Brexit.”
Border controls are a lot more complicated than the congestion charge. While they both involve imposing a fee on a vehicle crossing from one area to another, vehicles carrying goods through border controls can also be subject to physical checks as well as rules of origin regulations.
Additionally, although The Troubles are ostensibly history, dissident terrorist groups still operate in Northern Ireland - there were 58 shootings and 32 bombings last year alone. Installing the CCTV and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology that makes the congestion charge so seamless would simply provide another target for terrorists.
Last year former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Lord Peter Hain, warned: “The UK has said there will be no infrastructure on the border, that would be an obvious place for dissident groups to rally around and also to attack. It is highly foreseeable that dissident groups would seek to take action and that would include buildings.”