Boris Johnson: There are 'abundant technical fixes' to Irish border issue
Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson has said there are "abundant technical fixes" that could be introduced to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
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In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC, Mr Johnson admitted there is not "single magic bullet" to ensuring there are no checks on the border after Brexit, but there is a "wealth of solutions" to solve the problem.
"Let me tell you, there are abundant, abundant technical fixes that can be introduced to make sure that you don't have to have checks at the border," he said.
"That's the crucial thing. And everybody accepts that there are ways you can check for the rules of origin, there are ways you can check for compliance with EU goods and standards, of our goods standards."
The Tory leadership frontrunner also responded to a newly released report by the Prosperity UK think tank which stated measures to avoid a hard border could be ready within three years.
Its interim report recommends:
– Investigating the possibility of creating special economic zones to cover the border.
– Creating a multi-tier trusted trader programme for large and medium-sized companies, with exemptions for the smallest firms.
– Using mobile units to carry out sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks – covering food safety and plant and animal health – away from the border.
Mr Johnson said: "There are plenty of checks that you can do away from the border if you had to do them without any kind of hard infrastructure at the Northern Ireland frontier."
He also reiterated his view that the Government is never going to impose checks or a "hard border of any kind" in Northern Ireland.
"The important thing is that there should be an agreement that the solution of the border questions, the Irish border, the Northern Irish border questions, and all the facilitation that we want to produce, to get that done," he added.
"All those issues need to be tackled on the other side of 31 October during what's called the implementation period."
The Irish border question has been one of the main sticking points in the Brexit negotiations, with the UK and EU previously agreeing the controversial backstop mechanism to avoid such a scenario.
It would involve the UK remaining in the EU customs union and Northern Ireland in large parts of the single market if a solution cannot be found by the time the UK leaves the EU.
The backstop is strongly opposed by the DUP, who are keeping the Conservatives in power through a confidence-and-supply arrangement, who see it as a threat to the Union is it would mean Northern Ireland is treated differently than the rest of the UK and effectively puts a border down the Irish Sea.
Mr Johnson said the backstop is "plainly unacceptable" and said it could be scrapped altogether.
He said: "There is a way forward which I think, actually, to be fair all the candidates in the Conservative Party leadership contest broadly endorsed, which was to change the backstop, get rid of the backstop, in order to allow us to come out without this withdrawal agreement, and as far as I understand the matter, that is also the position of my remaining opponent."
Belfast Telegraph Digital