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Brexit: Boris Johnson pledges no checks near border in Northern Ireland 'under no circumstances'

Boris Johnson has pledged that there will "under no circumstances" be customs checks "at or near" the Northern Ireland border post-Brexit.

Mr Johnson made the comments during his keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

The pledge comes after it was reported the UK will propose putting a regulatory border down the Irish Sea and customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

He said that, while he was seeking a deal with the EU, the UK was prepared to leave on October 31 "come what may".

"We will, under no circumstances, have checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland. We will respect the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement," he told the conference.

"And, by a process of renewable, democratic consent by the Executive and the Assembly of Northern Ireland, we will go further and protect the existing regulatory arrangements for farmers on both sides of the border.

"At the same time, we will allow the UK to, whole and entire, withdraw from the EU with control over our own trade policy from the start."

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson on stage giving his speech at the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 2, 2019.

Mr Johnson did not elaborate on the details of how this would be achieved, however, or if there would be customs checks of any sort between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The PM said his position is a compromise that he hopes will provoke concessions from Brussels, otherwise a no-deal is coming.

"We will protect our precious union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland," he said.

"And yes, this is a compromise by the UK and I hope very much that our friends understand that and compromise in their turn.

"Because if we fail to get an agreement because of what is essentially a technical discussion on the exact nature of future customs checks when that technology is improving the whole time, then let us be in no doubt, conference, of what the alternative is: the alternative is no-deal.

"That is not an outcome we want, it is not an outcome we seek at all But let me tell you, my friends, it is an outcome for which we are ready."

Carrie Symonds, the girlfriend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, takes her seat prior to the Prime Minister's keynote speech on day four of the 2019 Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on October 2, 2019 in Manchester, England.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said technical talks with the PM's Europe adviser David Frost and the UK team will take place on Wednesday afternoon at the Commission.

"We also understand that we will receive a text from the United Kingdom later today and once received we will examine it objectively and in light of our well known criteria.

"We will listen very carefully to the United Kingdom," she said.

Ms Andreeva added: "The EU wants a deal. We think an orderly withdrawal is far more preferable than a no-deal scenario. And in order for there to be a deal we must have a legally operable solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop preventing a hard border, preserving the north-south co-operation and the all-Ireland economy, and protecting the EU's single market and Ireland's place in it."

The commission said it will not "pre-empt any reaction" before having a chance to study the backstop proposals put forward by Boris Johnson.

"Once we receive the text, we will look at it objectively," said Ms Andreeva.

"We want to enter into constructive discussions, so I will certainly not pre-empt any reaction here before even having received the text."

Asked if no-deal was better than a bad deal, the commission spokeswoman replied: "We are working for a deal and any deal should, of course, be a good deal."

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