Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson insists he did not betray Arlene Foster on eve of Brexit showdown

Boris Johnson and Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)
Boris Johnson and Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)
Opposed: DUP leader Arlene Foster

By Our Political Staff

Boris Johnson denied that he had broken a promise to the DUP as he launched a staunch last-ditch defence of his Brexit plan.

The PM insisted it was a "fantastic deal" for all the UK, particularly Northern Ireland.

He said the agreement he struck with Brussels "busts" the UK out of the backstop agreed by his predecessor Theresa May.

On the eve of a crunch Commons vote on the last-minute deal, Mr Johnson urged MPs on all sides to support it.

The comments came as the pivotal Parliamentary showdown appeared to be on a knife-edge.

Speaking to the BBC, the PM denied breaking a promise to the DUP, saying: "No I don't accept that at all.

"I think that what you have is a fantastic deal for all of the UK, and particularly for Northern Ireland because you've got a single customs territory," he said.

"Northern Ireland leaves the EU with the rest of the UK."

The DUP has accused Mr Johnson of "selling Northern Ireland short" by accepting checks on some goods passing through NI to get a deal with the EU.

In a separate interview with ITV News, Mr Johnson made another plea for MPs' backing.

He said: "It busts out of [the] backstop, the previous problem with the deal, the previous deal that kept us locked in the customs union and the single market, so it's a vast, vast, vast step forward.

"And what it also does, which is good, is it creates a period, a transition period from the end of October, end of this month, there's a period of standstill giving certainty to business and at the end of that it is perfectly correct that we will move to the new arrangements."

Mr Johnson insisted the agreement did not signal a "race to the bottom". He said: "There's some good language in the level-playing-field stuff, in the Political Declaration about this country's ambitions on the environment and on social protection you know we're world leaders in this stuff, there are ways in which we want to go further than the EU.

"Under the freedoms that we will win it will be possible, for instance, for the UK to ban the export of live animals, which has caused offence over many years in this country and we can do all things differently to a higher standard and our aspirations to high levels of protection will be enshrined in the Political Declaration."

Pressed on whether he could rally MPs, Mr Johnson said: "I think there is a very clear case for all of us to get this done and that is because, I don't know what you feel, but I sense from my own constituents in Uxbridge and across the country people want us to deliver now and parliamentarians, whether they're Labour, Lib Dems, Plaid, Scottish nationalists, we all want to, or DUP, we all want to move on."

Asked whether today's vote was the biggest thing he has done professionally, the PM said: "Well I wouldn't deny that, I think it's a very big moment for our country.

"But also it's a big moment for our democracy and parliamentarians because I do think we have a choice, which is we have to consider how long we can delay and seem to frustrate what was a pretty clear democratic expression of the will of the people and I think that it would be a great and a fine thing if we could get it done and come together tomorrow."

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