Goods checks between Northern Ireland and Britain unlikely, says Boris Johnson

The prime minister wants to hammer out a post-Brexit zero-tariff trade deal with Brussels

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Fein, First Minister Arlene Foster of the DUP sit around the table with Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland, Simon Coveney, Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the Great Hall in the Stormont Parliament Buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland, January 13, 2020. Liam McBurney/Pool via REUTERS
Powered by automated translation

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he is confident of agreeing a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union that would ensure no checks on goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland.

He was speaking in Belfast after Northern Ireland’s largest parties backed a power-sharing deal that will see devolved government return to the region after three years.

"The only circumstances in which you could imagine the need for checks coming from GB (Great Britain) to NI (Northern Ireland) is if those goods were going on into Ireland and we had not secured - which I hope and I am confident we will - a zero-tariff and zero-quota agreement with our friends and partners in the EU," he said.

Northern Ireland agreed to maintain alignment with EU market rules under Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal in order to avoid a hard border with its neighbour Ireland.

The UK is set to leave the EU on January 31. The Prime Minister wants to hammer out a trade deal with Brussels by the end of the year – but senior figures from the bloc warn this is likely to be not enough time.

Speaking after meeting with politicians in Northern Ireland Mr Johnson said the new executive was now set to “develop what is a very, very promising set of circumstances” for the region and its people.

“I want to make it absolutely clear the UK government will now work with this revived government in Northern Ireland to ensure that we deliver on that potential,” he said.

"Yes of course we’re going to be supportive, but the point I want to make is that it’s not just about money, it’s about leadership and what’s so great about today is, as I say, that Northern Ireland politicians have put aside their differences, stepped up to the plate and shown leadership and that is a fine thing and the right thing," he added.

Mr Johnson lauded the re-opening of Northern Ireland’s parliament and praised the politicians who had put aside their differences. The coalition collapsed in January 2017 amid a row over a green energy scandal.

South of the border in Ireland, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is expected to announce the date of a general election on Tuesday.

He had wanted a summer election but changed circumstances, including a Brexit deal being agreed, have meant the poll could be held as early as February.