James Forsyth

Boris Johnson on the Irish border

Boris Johnson on the Irish border
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In the forthcoming edition of The Spectator, we have an interview with Boris Johnson. You can read the whole interview with Katy Balls and myself from tomorrow morning, but one bit that particularly struck me was his language on the Irish border.

Boris Johnson is returning to the position of challenging the Irish and the EU to put up border posts in the event of no deal. Here’s the exchange

Can I ask you about the Irish border, can you foresee any circumstances where you would build …?

Boris Johnson: No, no.

So there is a lot of confusion about this point and so the only way there will be an Irish border is if the Irish government built it because there are no circumstances in which a British government led by you would ever build infrastructure in that way?

Boris Johnson: Correct, correct.

This is significant because Theresa May explicitly ruled out making this kind of challenge to Dublin and Brussels in her March 2018 Mansion House speech on Brexit. She said then that “it is not good enough to say, ‘We won’t introduce a hard border; if the EU forces Ireland to do it, that’s down to them’”.

Boris Johnson, though, is clearly going to try and push Ireland and the EU on this point. He wants to put the onus on them to say what they would do in the event of no deal. This poses some difficulty for Ireland and the EU as it highlights how the backstop could cause precisely what it is meant to avoid, a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.