Belfast Telegraph

There's no reason for border poll in event of hard Brexit, says Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside No10 Downing Street yesterday
Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside No10 Downing Street yesterday
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The Prime Minister has ruled out a border poll despite Sinn Fein demands for one in the event of a no-deal Brexit and hard border.

Boris Johnson said: "I don't think there is any reason for a border poll."

And he stated that alternatives to the backstop must be based on the consent of "the people of Northern Ireland and the government of Northern Ireland".

In an interview with the BBC yesterday, he said the role he envisages for Northern Ireland politicians in approving an alternative to the backstop was a reason why it would be "fantastic" if power-sharing was restored to Stormont.

Lady Sylvia Hermon
Lady Sylvia Hermon

The Prime Minister insisted that the Withdrawal Agreement was unacceptable. "The problem with the existing arrangements is that the decision-making power is kept by the EU," he said.

"The EU effectively can keep us locked into the customs union and the single market."

Ruling out a border poll, Mr Johnson said: "Northern Ireland is in so many ways doing so well.

"Yes, there are disappointments like Wrightbus but the overall story in tech, in investment, the growth of exporting businesses ... Northern Ireland is exporting stuff around the world.

"We want to champion that and turbo-charge that."

Meanwhile DUP MP Sammy Wilson threw his weight behind Mr Johnson's Brexit strategy.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said the Prime Minister could negotiate a deal which would be voted down "by those who do not want us to leave the clutches of the EU". Or Mr Johnson could "crawl to Brussels begging to be allowed to stay at the cost of £1bn a month".

The DUP MP said the "courageous thing" for Labour and the Liberal Democrats would be to agree to an election and allow the people to pass their judgment.

"If it was not for the fact that the scaredy-cats on the opposition benches are running away from the electorate, they would be calling for an election today," he said.

Dominic Cummings
Dominic Cummings

But independent unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon said she was "extremely concerned" that the Government viewed a no-deal Brexit as acceptable.

Such a scenario would have "very serious consequences" for Northern Ireland, she warned.

"The consequences will be, if there is any hardening of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, it will incentivise dissident republicans who are already attacking the PSNI," she said.

"It will incentivise them to even greater violence along the border, and with that there will be a backlash, certainly a reaction, from loyalists.

"I don't predict that with any pleasure at all. I think that this Government should be aware of the consequences of a no-deal in Northern Ireland."

Her comments drew anger from the DUP with East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell shouting "disgraceful" and "outrageous" as she spoke.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister called for tempers to cool after furious scenes in the Commons when he was accused of stoking violence around Brexit.

He refused to apologise for describing attempts to block a no-deal break with the EU as the "surrender act". But he acknowledged that he would have to be able to "reach out" to opposition MPs if he was to secure their support for any new deal he negotiated with the EU.

"I need to reach out across the House of Commons," he told the BBC. "I think it is fair enough to call the 'surrender act' what it is. But we do need to bring people together, and get this thing done.

"Tempers need to come down, and people need to come together because it's only by getting Brexit done that you'll lance the boil of the current anxiety and we will be able to get on with the domestic agenda."

Mr Johnson faced a backlash after he dismissed as "humbug" a complaint by a Labour MP that his "inflammatory" rhetoric risked provoking attacks on politicians.

He further angered the opposition by suggesting that the best way to honour murdered MP Jo Cox - an ardent Remainer - was to "get Brexit done".

Opposition party leaders meeting at Westminster agreed Mr Johnson's language in the Commons chamber on Wednesday was "unacceptable" and reaffirmed their determination to prevent a no-deal "crash out" on October 31.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Prime Minister's use of terms like "betrayal" and "surrender" risked driving some people to "unbelievable extremes".

He said: "The Prime Minister's language is encouraging people to behave in a disgraceful and abusive way to other public figures. I've witnessed it myself on the streets in this country."

Last night, Dominic Cummings said it is "not surprising" that some voters are angry after Boris Johnson was criticised for stoking fury over Brexit.

The PM's senior adviser added that the only way the issue of threats and abuse will be solved is if MPs "respect" the result of the EU referendum.

When Mr Cummings was asked if he blamed MPs for the abuse, he replied: "The MPs said we will have a referendum, we will respect the result and then they spent three years swerving all over the shop. It is not surprising some people are angry about it. I find it very odd that these characters are complaining that people are unhappy about their behaviour now and they also say they want a referendum."

He added: "If you are a bunch of politicians and say that we swear we are going to respect the result of a democratic vote, and then after you lose you say, we don't want to respect that vote, what do you expect to happen?"

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