Brexit will see customs checks introduced in Ireland, prime minister says
Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that customs checks will have to be introduced in Ireland after Brexit and this is a “reality” of the UK leaving the EU.
Speaking to BBC Radio Four ahead of the third day of the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Johnson said: “A sovereign united country must have a single customs territory.”
The question mark over the Irish border and keeping it open and free of border checks after Brexit has been a major struggling point in negotiations.
Johnson has previously insisted that the controversial Irish backstop solution, as proposed in the existing withdrawal agreement negotiated between the EU and his predecessor Theresa May, is unacceptable and an alternative must be agreed on for any deal to be struck.
Irish broadcaster RTE suggested that one of the UK’s proposals was to implement a “string of customs posts perhaps five to 10 miles away from the frontier” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which will become a new border between the UK and EU.
However, Johnson talked down such claims that Brexit would culminate in a hard border coming into force on the island of Ireland.
Johnson told the BBC: "They are not talking about the proposals that we are actually going to be tabling. They are talking about some stuff that went in previously.”
The Republic of Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney also wrote off the idea of customs posts as a ‘non-starter’ on Twitter, adding that both Northern Ireland and the Republic “deserve better”.
The BBC’s Iain Watson has addressed leaked proposals which suggest that the government may accept customs checks in Ireland which would be conducted away from the border, either at the goods' point of origin or at the final destination after passing the border.
But the prime minister himself stopped short on giving details as to what the government’s alternative formal proposals to the EU would be, but assured that they would be submitted to the bloc shortly.
He told BBC Today that he’d like “to veil” the government’s proposals “in decent obscurity” before disclosing them publicly, but he acknowledged that the “moment the rubber hits the road” is coming and the UK would be making “a very good offer” to the EU.
Johnson added that "a great deal of progress" has been made in negotiations over the last two months and both the UK government and the EU are working “flat out” in pursuit of a new deal.
The BBC understands that the government has finalised the legal wording of its proposal for a new Brexit deal and would reveal more of its plans after submitting them to the EU.
The existing deadline for EU withdrawal is October 31 and Johnson has vowed to take the UK out of the bloc with or without a deal in place.
Legislation passed in September may scupper Johnson’s plans to deliver Brexit on time if a deal is not agreed, since it requires him to ask for an extension to the deadline from the EU should a deal not be in place nor endorsement for a no-deal Brexit be won in Parliament by a majority of MPs.