Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson 'utterly vacuous' in his politics: SDLP's Hanna

By Micheal Sheils McNamee

The SDLP's Claire Hanna's has slammed Boris Johnson after the Brexiteer said the backstop proposal for Northern Ireland could compromise the UK's sovereignty.

Writing in the Telegraph [paywalled], the former Former Secretary drew parallels between Theresa May's proposed Chequers deal and the 1066 Battle of Hastings, saying if the proposals go through it would be the "first time since 1066, our leaders were deliberately acquiescing in foreign rule".

The backstop was included in an agreement between the EU and the UK reached in December 2017 and stated that should no agreement be reached on future trade arrangements for Norther Ireland, the province would remain in the EU's customs territory.

Mr Johnson said the Irish backstop was a "fatal patch of oil on the road" and that the UK needs to "understand the Irish backstop" in order to get the "great British motor back on track".

"Having resigned his cabinet position after failing to do anything substantial in 2 years, Boris Johnson’s main occupation is now making inflammatory comments to gain headlines and distract from the utter vacuousness of his politics," said SDLP Brexit spokesperson Mrs Hanna.

"[Monday's] rejection of the backstop on the basis that it undermines the Good Friday Agreement is particularly ridiculous when it is clear that the extreme Brexit is the biggest live threat to peace," she said.

“Always a fan of war and military-based references, which appeal to his delusions, Johnson’s reference to the Battle of Hastings gives a brief but telling insight, into the little Englander mind-set that is causing the ultimate act of political, social and economic self-harm across these islands."

Mrs Hanna's call for the backstop to be respected was echoed by Sinn Fein's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill, who called on the Irish government to stand firm on the agreement reached last December.

"The Chequers plan put forward by Theresa May would not resolve the issues around the border and protecting the rights of people in the north of Ireland," she said.

“It also falls considerably short of the backstop option which her government has already accepted and agreed to."

The July Chequers proposals sidestep the need for a backstop by recommending a cooperation of tariffs and trade policies between the UK and EU - where the UK would charge domestic tariffs on goods intended for the UK, and EU tariffs for goods going into the EU.

“We need to see the backstop maintained and indeed built upon to ensure the north remains in the customs union and the single market but we also need to see it enhanced to include rights protections," Mrs O'Neill added.

She said her party plans to raise the issue with Michel Barnier ahead of the October EU summit between the UK and Brussels - which is seen as the deadline for a divorce agreement - although EU leaders have floated the idea of a possible emergency summit in November if an arrangement is not reached by then.

Since stepping down from his position as Foreign Secretary in July over the Chequers proposals, Mr Johnson has taken shots at Theresa May in a number of newspaper columns over the proposed deal with Brussels.

Writing for the Mail on Sunday last week, Mr Johnson compared Theresa May's Chequers agreement to wrapping a "suicide vest around the British constitution".

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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