Belfast Telegraph

Minister slaps down Johnson and Davis over Irish border

Karen Bradley said those playing down the significance of border issues in Brexit talks do not understand the situation.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has slapped down Brexit backers including Boris Johnson who claim the border issue is being used as an excuse for the lack of progress in EU withdrawal talks.

Ms Bradley suggested Mr Johnson and former Brexit Secretary David Davis did not understand the issues facing Northern Irish businesses, and said it would be “madness” to leave the EU on World Trade Organisation terms.

In an incendiary Daily Telegraph article attacking Theresa May’s Brexit plans earlier this week, Mr Johnson said it was a “myth” that Ireland was facing the prospect of a hard border and insisted any problems were “fixable”.

And Mr Davis – who quit the Cabinet along with Mr Johnson in protest at the PM’s Chequers proposals for Brexit – said solving the border issue would be “straightforward” if the government was ready to show “political will”.

Well, with all due respect to my colleagues, you cannot possibly understand the issues of Northern Ireland from Westminster Karen Bradley

Asked about the pair’s comments, Ms Bradley told The House magazine: “Well, with all due respect to my colleagues, you cannot possibly understand the issues of Northern Ireland from Westminster. It’s just not possible, you have to be here talking to businesses.

“I think they need to come and meet some of the businesses and people that I speak to and come and see it for themselves.”

Ms Bradley said that people in Northern Ireland feel “slightly offended” at the way the border issue was being discussed.

“To say, ‘Oh, this is the Northern Ireland tail wagging the Brexit dog’. Well, what if it was Norfolk we were talking about?” she asked.

“How would people feel then, if it was something that was being done to work for Norfolk?”

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The Northern Ireland Secretary called on everyone to ‘get behind’ Theresa May’s proposals (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Calling on everyone to “get behind” Mrs May’s proposals, she said: “I really do stand by the point that if Brexit works for the people of Northern Ireland – and I firmly believe the Chequers deal means it does – it also works for my constituents in Staffordshire Moorlands.

“Because the burdens we would impose on businesses in Staffordshire Moorlands by some of the proposals that have been put forward – a sort of Canada-style deal etcetera – the proposition is we move to rest of world customs arrangement for our EU trade. That seems to me to be madness.

“I didn’t come into politics to impose burdens on business. I came into politics to make it easier for business.”

Ms Bradley – who supported Remain in the 2016 referendum campaign – warned that if people backed a whole range of different approaches at this late stage in negotiations, “that might mean that Brexit simply doesn’t happen”.

She said: “I want to see Brexit happen, my constituents voted for it, the country voted for it. I want to see it happen, but I want to see it happen in a way that’s a success for the UK.”

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