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Analysis

Johnson gets 2 facts wrong and scores own goal on N Ireland

by Hugo Dixon | 08.11.2019

Does the Prime Minister understand the divorce deal he has done with the EU? Or is he being deliberately misleading? Boris Johnson got two crucial facts wrong and scored an own goal in a speech to Conservatives in Northern Ireland.

Checks on goods from GB to NI

The Prime Minister said: “There will not be tariffs or checks on goods coming from GB to NI that are not going on to Ireland.”

But the new Protocol that Johnson agreed with the EU makes clear that Northern Ireland will follow hundreds of EU rules to do with customs and movement of goods. Most are listed in Annex 2. Among these is a 101 page document “laying down the Union Customs Code” (UCC). (Regulation (EU) No 952/2013).

In order to make sure these rules are followed, there will have to be checks in the Irish Sea. The government’s own impact assessment says: “Goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be required to complete both import declarations and Entry Summary (ENS) Declarations because the UK will be applying the EU’s UCC in Northern Ireland.” (See paragraph 241).

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It’s true that goods will not face tariffs unless they are “at risk” of entering the EU. But the criteria for determining whether there is a risk will be decided after Brexit by a joint committee of the UK and the EU. So the EU will have a veto on the rules and could have a low tolerance for risk with the result that tariffs could be paid in cases where goods stay in Northern Ireland. (Protocol, Article 5, para 2).

Checks on goods from NI to GB

Johnson said: “There will not be checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.” 

This contradicts what his own Brexit secretary told the House of Lords last month. After initially giving the same answer that the Prime Minister did yesterday, Stephen Barclay was forced to admit that “exit summary declarations will be required in terms of NI to GB.” This is because the EU’s UCC requires such exit declarations. (See Part D of this European Commission document).

The government’s impact assessment admits as much, saying: “Some practical information will need to be provided electronically on movement of goods West-East.” (Para 239).

But after he was questioned about whether businesses would have to fill in customs declarations on goods going from NI to GB, Johnson said: “If somebody asks you to do that, tell them to ring up the Prime Minister, and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin.” Is he really going to suggest that companies break the rules he wants to agree to in an international treaty?

‘Great deal’ for Northern Ireland

The Prime Minister added: “Northern Ireland has got a great deal… You keep access to the single market.”

It is indeed great for Northern Ireland to have access to the world’s largest trade bloc. But what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If it’s good for Northern Ireland, why isn’t it good for Wales, Scotland and England?

And if it’s good to stay in the single market, wouldn’t it be even better to sit round the EU’s table making its rules – rather than be turned into an EU colony as Northern Ireland would be under Johnson’s deal?

The way to do that is for the whole UK to stay in the EU. To achieve that, we need to stop Johnson getting a majority in the election and then give the people a chance to stop Brexit in a referendum.

This article was updated to add Johnson’s comment about throwing forms in the bin after a new video of the event was published

Edited by James Earley

7 Responses to “Johnson gets 2 facts wrong and scores own goal on N Ireland”

  • How is it possible for Johnson to get away with these errors and other statements that make nonsense of the whole Brexit debate, ” Northern Ireland has got a great deal…..” ?

    Why are these statements not being reflected in the national press and, at the very least, by the political parties opposing Brexit such as the Lib-Dems ?

  • The NI gaffe by Johnson has just been reported at length on Mark Austin’s programme. Johnson told NI business people that they should throw customs forms between NI and GB into the bin.

  • Dear John (King ),

    Thank you so much for informing me, and I hope MILLIONS of others, about the lecture by Professor Michael Dougan on Brexit and in particular the Northern Ireland dimension.
    This lecture should be on national television. Instead of which we get endless interviews with the Farage and Goves of this world, not to speak of the nauseating diet of misinformation from a large part of the national and nationalist press.

    What can any of us do to bring this sort of lecture to the wider public ? Hugo what is the answer?

  • Borisolini could play the role of Herod in the Massacre of the Innocents and the electorate wouldn’t care less. As with the Orange blob there appears to be nothing so appalling that will make people think twice. Borisolini has demonstrated his contempt for democratic norms and institutions, for good governance and the rule of law, for the Monarch. Another 5 years of this and we’ll end up in a very dark and ugly place. Crazy times.