- REUTERS/Mary Turner
- Boris Johnson privately tells Theresa May that the government should not seek to prevent a return of a hard border with Ireland after Brexit.
- A leaked letter reveals that the foreign secretary questioned “how important” preventing a hard border was.
- Johnson has previously publicly described the possibility of a hard border as “unthinkable”.
- The explosive claims come as another leak reveals the EU’s plans to prevent new border checks.
LONDON – Boris Johnson has privately admitted that Brexit could result in a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, according to a leaked letter sent to prime minister Theresa May obtained by Sky News.
In the letter, the foreign secretary wrote to the Prime Minister that “it is wrong to see the task as maintaining ‘no border'” in Ireland. Instead, the government should prevent the border becoming “significantly” harder.
Johnson also downplayed the potential effects of the reintroduction of a border, writing: “Even if a hard border is reintroduced, we would expect to see 95% + of goods pass the border [without] checks.” There is an “exaggerated impression” of “how important” the checks at the borders of the EU are, he allegedly wrote.
This is at odds with the government’s official policy of preventing a hard border. Johnson himself has previously emphatically ruled out any kind of hard border in Ireland, saying: “That would be unthinkable, and it would be economic and political madness.”
Labour has called on Theresa May to reconsider Johnson’s position in light of the news. Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith said: “Boris Johnson’s comments to the Prime Minister about Northern Ireland are reckless and irresponsible … The Prime Minister should condemn these remarks immediately and seriously consider the position of her Foreign Secretary.”
The leak follows a BBC Radio 4 interview this morning in which Johnson said only that there should not be “excessive checks” at the border.
Johnson was widely mocked after suggested that the Northern Ireland border could be modeled on the congestion charge in London, where those driving into central London are automatically charged for entry.
A government spokesperson told Business Insider that there were “no plans” to model the scheme on London, insisting that Johnson was not “offering a technical solution”.
The latest Brexit leak follows the leaking of new EU proposals for avoiding a border on Tuesday evening.
On Tuesday, Business Insider reported that the EU is planning to call for Northern Ireland to stay in the customs union and European Single Market if Theresa May cannot find another way to avoid new border checks.