Loyalists have misunderstood my Brexit deal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says during flying Northern Ireland visit
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he believes there has been "some misunderstanding" by the loyalist community regarding his Brexit deal during a whistle-stop tour of Co Armagh.
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Mr Johnson was visiting the Tayto crisp factory in Tandragee as he launched his campaign across the UK ahead of next month's general election.
Before flying to Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister spent the day at the Tetley Tea factory in Stockton and then travelled north to Scotland where he visited Roseisle Distillery in Elgin.
Following a tour of the crisp factory - which was under a heavy police presence - and expressing his love of Tayto's cheese and onion flavoured crisps, Mr Johnson sat down with the Press.
He said he wished to emphasise the reason why he wanted to visit Northern Ireland - to promote the "fantastic" Brexit deal he negotiated with the European Union.
Loyalists angry over the deal first met in east Belfast's Con Club last month to discuss their response to the Prime Minister's withdrawal agreement, while similar events have also taken place elsewhere.
When asked if members of the loyalist community had attempted to make representations to Downing Street, Mr Johnson replied that there has been "some misunderstanding" regarding his Brexit deal.
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"It means the whole of the UK can leave the EU entirely with a single customs territory as it says explicitly in the deal," he said.
"It means that Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK can do free trade deals around the world. It also says that Northern Ireland has unfettered access to the rest of the UK market.
"The only checks that there would be is that if there was stuff coming from GB to NI and there was a possibility that those goods could go on to the Republic of Ireland.
"In other words, if they're going into the EU and there could be a question of tariffs, then on those small minority of goods that were going via Northern Ireland into the EU there could be tariffs.
"The reason for doing that is to avoid having a hard border."
Relations between the DUP and the Prime Minister have soured, after the largest party in Northern Ireland decided they would not back his deal as a result of what it says is an economic border in the Irish Sea.
The DUP's 10 MPs were instrumental in keeping the Conservative Government in power.
They agreed a 'confidence and supply' deal after the Tories failed to win a majority in the last election.
Mr Johnson said he has a lot of respect for DUP leader Arlene Foster, deputy leader Nigel Dodds and other party members.
But he said "we'll see what happens on the other side of the election" regarding future arrangements between the two parties.
"We don't have a Conservative candidate here but I am the Prime Minister of the whole of the UK and I have to come here and campaign everywhere and I'm going to do that," he added.
"It's very important that we get our message across because whatever happens I am a passionate, passionate believer in the Union and we must stick up for that.
"We'll see what happens on the other side of the election but we do have a good partnership with the DUP."
Believing that both London and Dublin, as well as all of the political parties in Northern Ireland, have a role to play in getting Stormont back up and running, the Prime Minister stated that "social issues", such as same-sex marriage and abortion, should be discussed by political leaders here.
"Northern Ireland has got a fantastic future, it's an amazing place, and it's got a lot going for it but it needs a proper government to champion the interests of the people of Northern Ireland," he added.
Newry and Armagh Sinn Fein candidate Mickey Brady was angered by Mr Johnson's "unannounced" visit to what was his constituency and described it as "clandestine".
However, a Downing Street official explained that they are only required by ministerial code to notify sitting MPs that the Prime Minister is visiting their constituency, but as Parliament is now dissolved due to the election it was unnecessary.
Responding to Mr Brady's remarks, the Prime Minister said: "I meant no disrespect to the honourable member... who does not take his seat."
Asked why he chose Tandragee and the famous Tayto Castle as the venue for the flying visit, he said it was because he "loved the crisps" and revealed his favourite flavour is cheese and onion.