Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland to leave EU along with the rest of UK, Boris Johnson tells debate

Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Boris Johnson on Tuesday night claimed "it's there in black and white" in his Brexit deal that Northern Ireland will leave the EU with the rest of the UK.

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The Prime Minister was responding to criticism from Jeremy Corbyn during the first televised debate of the general election campaign, as the Labour leader challenged him over his previous vow to the DUP not to put a border in the Irish Sea.

The pair faced off in an hour-long encounter just over three weeks before voters go to the polls on December 12.

At last year's DUP conference, Mr Johnson had called on then-Prime Minister Theresa May to bin proposals that could see Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of the UK after Brexit. But the DUP opposes Mr Johnson's current deal, claiming it effectively puts an economic border in the Irish Sea.

Corbyn reminded Johnson of his previous pledge when an audience member asked if the Union was "worth sacrificing for Brexit".

Corbyn said: "The agreement that the Prime Minister... has put to Parliament was about creating a border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and creating a different customs arrangement for Northern Ireland with the rest of Ireland, having promised to the DUP he would never do that.

"Clearly, there is an issue there. Clearly, there are issues all around about this deal he has proposed."

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn shake hands on the set of the debate last night

Mr Johnson said his deal would mean "that the whole of the UK can come out and do free trade deals around the world and do a great deal with our EU friends and partners - Northern Ireland included."

He added: "Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the UK, it's there in black and white. What the people of Northern Ireland don't know, and nor do the people of Ireland, is what kind of deal Jeremy Corbyn proposes to do."

Mr Corbyn replied: "The only problem with what Mr Johnson just said is that he said exactly the opposite when he spoke to a DUP conference. You said there would be no border down the Irish Sea - well there is."

The Tory leader said: "On the contrary, the whole of the UK comes out entire and perfect as I have said.

"We do free trade deals together, we take back control together, we have our own immigration systems and take back control of our borders."

Opening the head-to-head, Corbyn said the Conservatives have "failed" on the economy, climate crisis, the NHS and Brexit while his party "is offering real change and real hope".

In response, Johnson said the election had been called because of "a deadlocked Parliament that will not deliver Brexit".

He said a vote for the Tories is a vote to "get Brexit done", adding: "If you vote for us, we have a deal that is ready to go.

"Approved by every one of the 635 Conservatives candidates standing at this election.

"As soon as we can get that deal through Parliament, as we can in the next few weeks, we can get on with the people's priorities."

The Prime Minister maintained the UK will leave the EU on January 31 but Corbyn dismissed the pledge as "nonsense".

He said Johnson was proposing a trade deal with the US which would take "at least seven years to negotiate" while also holding talks with the EU on trade, claiming: "The two things are actually incompatible."

Johnson also challenged the Labour leader about a second EU referendum, asking: "Are you going to campaign for Leave or Remain?"

Mr Corbyn replied: "I want to bring people together, therefore there will be a referendum in which that decision will be made by the British people and our government will abide by that decision."

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson is to take part in a three-way debate with Johnson and Corbyn hosted by Sky on November 28.

The next day, the BBC will host a debate in Cardiff between senior figures from the seven major GB political parties.

The BBC will then host a "prime ministerial debate" on December 6 from Southampton between Corbyn and Johnson.

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