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Boris quotes Van Morrison as he criticises backstop deal at DUP conference

Johnson said the UK is “on the verge of making a historic mistake” if it backs the draft Brexit agreement.

MP Boris Johnson and DUP Party leader Arlene Foster at the DUP annual conference at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Belfast.
MP Boris Johnson and DUP Party leader Arlene Foster at the DUP annual conference at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Belfast.
Image: Michael Cooper/PA Wire/PA Images

BORIS JOHNSON HAS said the UK is “on the verge of making a historic mistake” if it backs the draft Brexit agreement.

Speaking at the Democratic Unionist Party’s annual conference in Belfast today, the former British Foreign Secretary said the backstop would lead to the UK becoming a satellite state.

“Unless we junk this backstop, we are going to find that Brussels has got us exactly where they want us: a satellite state,” Johnson told the conference.

“In the words of that great Northern Irish singer Van Morrison, it is time we all moved from the dark end of the street to the bright side of the road,” he said. 

The pro-Brexit MP resigned from Theresa May’s Cabinet in July over her Brexit strategy.

He told the conference the EU had made Northern Ireland an “indispensable bargaining chip” in the Brexit negotiations. He said the DUP and Conservatives should work together, “backing our union against all those who would seek to divide us”.

At the same conference, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the backstop is “not in the national interest”.

The backstop aims to avoid a hard border between the Republican and Northern Ireland and could see the North stay aligned to some EU rules.

The DUP has criticised the plan as the party believes it threatens the United Kingdom and could lead to a trade border in the Irish Sea.

‘A bit of an understatement’ 

In her speech, Foster recalled how she told a DUP conference two years ago that Brexit negotiations would be “tough”, adding: “That seems like a bit of an understatement now.”

Foster acknowledged May’s “hard work and determined efforts” to secure the Brexit deal, however she said the draft agreement “fails [May's] own key commitments”.

On the one hand, we are told the backstop would be the best of both worlds and on the other we are told it is unlikely to be needed…

“In such circumstances, Northern Ireland alone would be aligned to numerous EU single market regulations while Great Britain would not. Such a scenario in the medium term would inevitably lead to barriers to trade within the UK internal market.

“Let me be very clear, that is not in the national interest,” Foster stated.

She said the DUP, which is propping up May’s minority government, will not back the deal as it stands. 

The leaders of 27 EU member states are meeting tomorrow to decide if they’ll endorse the draft Brexit deal.

The UK Parliament is yet to vote on the agreement. If the House of Commons approves it, it would then go before the European Parliament to be ratified. 

The Dáil backed the deal, a symbolic rather than binding gesture, during the week. 

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Órla Ryan

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