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General Election 2019

Foster calls for clarity as Johnson insists Brexit deal won't mean checks on goods travelling from Northern Ireland to Britain

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Conservative Campaign Headquarters Call Centre, London, while on the election campaign trail. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Conservative Campaign Headquarters Call Centre, London, while on the election campaign trail. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

DUP leader Arlene Foster has called for clarity after Boris Johnson insisted his Brexit withdrawal agreement won't mean checks on goods travelling from Northern Ireland to Britain.

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However, the Prime Minister has admitted there will be checks on some goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland.

Speaking in an interview on Sky News's Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, he said the checks would not be on goods travelling into Britain from Northern Ireland.

It comes after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn produced a "secret document" he claimed proved that Mr Johnson's deal would create a customs border in the Irish Sea.

Mrs Foster reiterated her party's concerns over the deal, which cost Mr Johnson the support of her party's MPs at Westminster.

She said there had to be "clarity in relation to that for those of us living in Northern Ireland, because, of course, Great Britain is our largest market by far, and we need to be able to, from an economic point of view, know what it's going to mean for us in the future".

Speakin to BBC 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics programme on Sunday she said "by definition you would need checks to see that that happens".

"There have been differing views even within the Conservative Party as to what it meant," Mrs Foster said.

Mr Johnson has always denied there will be checks on goods.

Asked again on Sunday, the Prime Minister said: "No, absolutely not.

"The deal we've done with the EU is a brilliant deal and it allows us to do all the things that Brexit was about so it's about taking back control of our borders, money, laws - but unlike the previous arrangements it allows the whole of the UK to come out of the EU including Northern Ireland and the only checks that there would be, would be if something was coming from GB via Northern Ireland and was going on to the Republic, then there might be checks at the border into Northern Ireland," Mr Johnson said.

He said the leaked Treasury analysis document that Labour revealed on Friday was "wrong" to suggest there could be checks and even tariffs on goods travelling between the two parts of the UK.

"Yes (that's wrong)", said the Tory leader. "Because there's no question of there being checks on goods going NI/GB or GB/NI because they are part of - if you look at what the deal is, we're part of the same customs territory and it's very clear that there should be unfettered access between Northern Ireland and the rest of GB.

"The only reason - this is another of these things that has been produced by the Labour party as a kind of distraction."      

The document revealed by Mr Corbyn states that the vast majority of Northern Ireland businesses who export to Britain will struggle to meet new costs as a result of the deal.

It also says that high street goods in Northern Ireland's stores are likely to increase in price, affecting business profitability and that the plan could lead to loss of jobs in key employment sectors, including retail.

The Labour leader said page five of the leaked document stated "there will be customs declarations and security checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain."

"It is there in black and white. It says there will be customs declarations, absolutely clearly, for trade going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain," Mr Corbyn said.

"The Government cannot rule out regulatory checks, rules of origin checks and animal and public health checks also.

"For trade going the other way, from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, there will be all of the above plus potentially damaging tariffs."

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