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Foster's helped the Conservatives form a government after the last UK election.
Foster's helped the Conservatives form a government after the last UK election.
Image: PA Images

Arlene Foster says Boris Johnson 'broke his word' on preventing an Irish Sea border

Foster says government officials have told her there would need to be checks.
Dec 9th 2019, 1:18 PM 23,365 49

BORIS JOHNSON HAS been accused of breaking his word over his commitment to protect the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland by DUP leader Arlene Foster.

As the Prime Minister faced fresh questions over trade within the UK after Brexit, Foster said government officials had told her there would need to be checks.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about the sense of some in the unionist community that Johnson’s deal was a “betrayal”, she said: “I think it is right for the leadership of unionism in Northern Ireland to try to work with the prime minister of the day to get the best deal for Northern Ireland.

We will always do that. We will continue to do that. I think it says more about the person who broke their word than me and the leadership of the… Democratic Unionist Party.

She said the DUP had been told by UK customs officials before the PM announced his deal that there would be checks between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Foster said a lack of free-flowing trade would cause “economic instability in Northern Ireland, which will lead to higher costs for retailers which will lead to less choice for our consumers in Northern Ireland”.

“And all of that leads me to say that we need to – after this election is over, and I’m not prejudging the election in any one way, every vote will count – but what is important is that we have a strong team of DUP MPs back in Westminster to speak up for Northern Ireland.”

Foster has kept a low profile in the election campaign thus far, and her intervention will be seen by some as an attempt to highlight a need for the DUP’s role in holding sway in the event of a hung parliament.

Her comments came after Labour released a leaked government report last week that concluded customs checks and possibly even tariffs could be required on goods travelling in both directions between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

But Johnson told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme over the weekend that the report was “wrong” and added that the six counties would have “unfettered access” to the UK market.

TheJournal.ie previously factchecked Johnson’s claim and found that while checks may be avoided going eastwards, it’s rather impossible to say the same about goods going in the opposite direction

With just a few days to go until polls open, the Johnson is embarking on a blitz of Labour’s heartlands, attacking  Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit position.

After previously vowing that the UK would leave the EU on 31 October, he has now vowed to leave January 31.

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Johnson also says he will finalise a trade deal with Brussels within 11 months to meet the transition period deadline.

Arrangements would also need to be signed off that allow Northern Ireland to continue to follow Brussels and Dublin rules on the trade of goods to ensure there is no hard border.

But a Whitehall report seen by the Financial Times highlights the difficultly involved for the UK government in bringing in the infrastructure in time for the UK to leave when the PM has pledged.

A Department for Exiting the European Union document, according to the FT, states that: “Delivery of the required infrastructure, associated systems, and staffing to implement the requirements of the (Northern Ireland) protocol by December 2020 represents a major strategic, political and operational challenge.”

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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