POLITICS
24/11/2018 16:50 GMT

Boris Johnson Calls For PM's Backstop To Be Junked At DUP Conference

"The Titanic springs to mind, and now is the time to point out the iceberg ahead."

Boris Johnson has called for the Irish border backstop to be “junked” as he warned that Theresa May’s draft Brexit deal was in danger of turning Northern Ireland into an “economic semi-colony” of the EU.

The arch Brexiteer and ex-foreign secretary received a warm welcome at the DUP conference in Belfast as he demanded the scrapping of the proposal that could see Northern Ireland aligned with EU regulatory rules post-Brexit.

After a week that saw the DUP vote against the Government in the Commons to signal their anger at the agreement, Johnson stressed the need to maintain the Conservatives’ “crucial” confidence and supply deal going forward, warning of ruinous consequences for the UK if Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn came to power.

PA Wire/PA Images

“And so to our allies in the DUP, I hope that you agree that it is absolutely vital that we keep this partnership going and that we are not so complacent as to abandon the government of this country to a man whose avowed policy is to break up this country,” he said.

“And we should work together to ensure that the whole UK – Northern Ireland included – can seize the opportunities of Brexit.”

Johnson said the UK was on the verge of “making a historic mistake”.

“If we are not careful, we are going to stay in the customs union, we are going to stay in the single market, we are going to be rules takers,” he said.

“Unless we junk this backstop, we will find that Brussels has got us exactly where they want us – a satellite state.

“We will continue to accept the terms under which they have a surplus in trade in goods with us of £95 billion. But with no power, no British influence on those terms. We won’t be able to do free trade deals of any value or significance.”

He added that the EU had achieved a “very clever trick” by making Northern Ireland an “indispensable bargaining chip” in future negotiations, noting the reference to the potential need to label goods from Northern Ireland UK (NI) under the backstop proposal.

“Indeed if you read the Withdrawal Agreement you can see that we are witnessing the birth of a new country called Ukni,” he said.

“Ukni is no longer exclusively ruled by London or Stormont. Ukni is in large part to be ruled by Brussels.

“And Ukni will have to accept large swathes of EU regulations now and in the future.

“On lawnmower noise, on the labelling of sardines, on the use of coins and tokens that may be deemed to resemble a Euro.

“And on the use of personal recreational watercraft. And nowhere has a more illustrious history than Northern Ireland when it comes to the creation of recreational watercraft.

“The Titanic springs to mind, and now is the time to point out the iceberg ahead.”

Johnson warned the UK would have to “leave Northern Ireland behind as an economic semi-colony of the EU” if the rest of the union wanted to strike free trade deals.

He called for a “sensible agreement”, but added that the backstop needed to be junked as neither side would allow hard Irish border.

He again argued for a “super Canada” style trade deal with the EU, and urged a rethink on the timeframe for paying the divorce bill, arguing that half should be withheld until 2020.

The proposed deal refers to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement signed in 2016 between Canada and the EU, which has reduced tariffs on 98% of goods traded between the parties.

Johnson added: “We need urgently to recover our confidence and our self-belief, and to stop treating Brexit as if it were a plague of frogs, or a murrain on our cattle, or some adverse weather event that had to be managed.”

The former foreign secretary also used his speech to again call for a bridge linking Northern Ireland and Scotland.

“It is a far shorter distance than that covered by some bridges these days – look at Shanghai to Ningbo,” he said.

“The problem is not the undersea Beaufort’s dyke or lack of funds.

“The problem is an absence of political will.”