POLITICS
22/10/2019 18:02 BST | Updated 22/10/2019 18:02 BST

DUP MP 'Nearly Choked' At Boris Johnson's Brexit Deal Claims

Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson accuses prime minister of thinking DUP MPs "can't read" the deal and work out its impact on Northern Ireland.

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DUP MPs have vented their fury with Boris Johnson, accusing the prime minister of misrepresenting the effect of his Brexit deal on Northern Ireland.

The party’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said he “nearly choked” when Johnson told MPs there would only be “light touch” customs checks on goods traded between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The PM’s insistence came despite Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay admitting on Monday that firms in Northern Ireland would have to submit declaration forms for goods heading to the rest of the UK.

The proposed withdrawal treaty will see Northern Ireland follow European single market rules on goods and act as an entry point to the EU customs union, meaning customs checks would apply between the province and the rest of the UK.

Johnson made the concessions to get rid of the old Irish backstop negotiated by Theresa May, which envisaged no checks between Northern Ireland and either the Republic or the rest of the UK.

The PM has been widely accused of abandoning commitments made to his former DUP allies to maintain a soft border with the Republic while allowing the rest of the UK to diverge more from EU rules.

He attempted to calm the party’s anger by insisting on Tuesday: “There are no checks GB-NI, there will be some light touch measures to ensure there is no illegal trade in endangered animal species and banned firearms.”

But Wilson reacted furiously to Johnson’s claims, telling the Commons: “I nearly choked when the prime minister said it.

“When he told us, ‘well don’t worry about it because all of these changes that affect Northern Ireland will be light touch - it’s not really a boundary down the Irish Sea, they are just light touch regulations’.

“Light touch regulations which would require firms to make declarations when they sell goods to another part of their country, would have to pay duties for goods that come from a part of their own country, which incur costs on them.

“I will have had some respect if the prime minister had said ‘I have a deadline of October 31, I have to get round to it, I’m therefore having to make concessions and unfortunately Northern Ireland (is part of) the concessions’.

“But what I don’t take is a prime minister who thinks I can’t read the agreement that has been published and I can’t see in that agreement what the impact is on Northern Ireland.”

Meanwhile, DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly said she had “serious concerns there has been some mistake in relation to the printing of the withdrawal agreement”.

She told the Commons there had been reference in the prime minister’s speech to “clauses and provisions” which would see the arrangements for Northern Ireland “disappear” once a free trade deal had been signed.

She went on: “I cannot find those clauses. I took the opportunity during the leader of the opposition’s speech to look at it again, I cannot find those clauses within my copy.”

Labour MP Catherine McKinnell added: “I too noted that the prime minister referred to checks and declarations on GB Northern Irish goods being transitory and melting away unless a majority of Northern Ireland choose to retain them.

“And I also share concerns that that is not, in fact, correct and, perhaps, there has been some confusion between the future decisions relating to a single market, and being in a customs union.”