Belfast Telegraph

BBC's Andrew Neil slams Boris Johnson for breaking Irish sea border pledge to DUP

Arlene Foster with Boris Johnson at last year’s DUP party conference
Arlene Foster with Boris Johnson at last year’s DUP party conference

The Prime Minister has been accused of breaking his vow to the DUP that “there would never be a border down the Irish Sea”, as broadcasters lined up to accuse him of “running scared” from scrutiny.

ITV confirmed yesterday that Boris Johnson has not agreed to a leader’s interview.

His refusal to face journalist Julie Etchingham comes as he continues to avoid an interview with BBC veteran Andrew Neil, despite his rivals sitting down to face in-depth questioning.

Last night, Neil issued a challenge to Mr Johnson to commit to an interview with him.

Neil said: “We have been asking him for weeks now to give us a date, a time, a venue. As of now, none has been forthcoming.

“No broadcaster can compel a politician to be interviewed. But leaders’ interviews have been a key part of the BBC’s prime-time election coverage for decades.

“We do them on your behalf to scrutinise and hold to account those who would govern us. That is democracy.”

Neil added: “Can he be trusted to fund the NHS properly, when he used a cash figure of an extra £34bn?  After inflation, the additional money promised amounts to £20bn.

“He vows that the NHS will not be on the table with any trade talks with America. But he vowed to the DUP, his unionist allies in Northern Ireland, that there would never be a border down the Irish Sea.

“That is as important to the DUP as the NHS is to the rest of us. It is a vow his Brexit deal would seem to break.”

ITV said it contacted Mr Johnson’s press team on “repeated occasions” with times and dates, but that his team confirmed yesterday that he will not be taking part.

The programme had been scheduled for today, and ITV confirmed that Tonight will still air but in a different format to the other leadership interviews.

“The programme will instead feature a profile of the Prime Minister using fresh interviews with other contributors and archive footage,” added the spokesman.

Ian Lavery, Labour Party chair, said: “Boris Johnson thinks he’s born to rule and doesn’t have to face scrutiny.

“He’s running scared because every time he is confronted with the impact of nine years of austerity, the cost of living crisis and his plans to sell out our NHS, the more he is exposed.”

Meanwhile, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage (right) said “there is no question” over Mr Johnson winning a majority at the General Election.

In his interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, Mr Farage was asked who he would prefer to be in Downing Street, Mr Johnson or Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

 He said: “Not Jeremy Corbyn, obviously. It is going to be Boris Johnson. I would prefer that to Jeremy Corbyn.”

The 55-year-old added: “He will have a majority, there is no question about that.”

Earlier, Mr Farage accused three MEPs who quit his party and urged people to vote Conservative of having personal links with the Tories.

Annunziata Rees-Mogg, sister of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, Lance Forman and Lucy Harris dramatically announced they would leave the Brexit Party on Thursday morning yesterday.

Mr Farage told Neil: “One of them is a sister of a Cabinet minister, another one has a boyfriend working for that Cabinet minister, fact, and another one is a personal friend of Boris Johnson’s.”

Ms Rees-Mogg rejected speculation that her older brother had influenced her decision as “disturbingly old-fashioned”.

A fourth MEP, former British Chambers of Commerce chief John Longworth, left hours after having the whip suspended.

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