Belfast Telegraph

Backstop will be rejected, even if time-limited vow Johnson and Hunt

Conservative party leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt during a head-to-head debate in The News Building, London. Photo credit: Louis Wood/The Sun/The Sun/PA Wire
Conservative party leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt during a head-to-head debate in The News Building, London. Photo credit: Louis Wood/The Sun/The Sun/PA Wire

Tory leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have both vowed to reject the Irish border backstop, even if it is time-limited.

The two MPs are currently battling it out to replace Theresa May at the head of their party and become the next Prime Minister in the process.

At the final head-to-head debate of the leadership campaign in London the pair were asked whether the backstop could be acceptable if it was time-limited, both replied that they would reject the plan.

Mrs May agreed the 'backstop' plan with the EU in an attempt to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, but this was rejected by hardline Brexiteers and the DUP who claimed it could leave the UK tied to the EU indefinitely and create a trade border in the Irish Sea.

The backstop issue effectively ended Mrs May's hopes of getting her Brexit deal through Parliament and its failure hastened her departure as Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt have both previously indicated that they would favour a technology based approach to the border, while the EU claim the technology necessary does not yet exist.

The EU negotiating team and Irish government have remained firm that the backstop is not up for negotiation.

Speaking at the leadership debate Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt declared that the "backstop is dead".

“The backstop, as it is, is dead ... I don’t think tweaking it with a time limit will do the trick, we’ve got to find a new way,” he said.

Mr Johnson agreed saying he did not believe a Brexit solution could be found by simply altering the plan.

“I’m not attracted to time limits or unilateral escape hatches or all these elaborate devices, glosses, codicils and so on that you could apply to the backstop,” he said.

As it stands the UK is set to leave the EU on October 31 and former London Mayor Mr Johnson has been adamant that if elected the UK will be leaving deal or no deal.

Mr Hunt has expressed a reluctance to leave without a deal, but said he would be willing to leave in a no-deal scenario if there was no prospect of reaching an agreement with the EU.

He told the audience that he is the most likely candidate to get Brexit delivered by the current deadline.

"On Brexit, if people think with their heads as well as their hearts, they will see that my way of delivering Brexit is more likely to get us out by October 31 because I have a plan for no-deal but also the ability to negotiate a deal that can get through the Houses of Parliament," the Foreign Secretary said.

"Being prime minister is not just about what you promise but what you can deliver."

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Mr Johnson said the nation faces a "momentous choice" between the "same old failed can-kicking approach" between change and getting back "our mojo".

"The way to do that is to get Brexit done by October 31," he said.

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