Boris Johnson's claim that checks will not be needed on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Britain under the terms of his Brexit deal have been rejected by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.
Mr Coveney said inspections would have to take place on goods moving in both directions under the terms of the withdrawal agreement the British prime minister struck with the European Union.
Mr Johnson has been accused of lying to voters on the issue ahead of Thursday’s general election after repeatedly saying that there would be no checks as the North would remain part of the UK customs territory. He subsequently said there would be some, but these would apply only to items destined for the Republic.
DUP leader Arlene Foster yesterday said that before the latest version of the deal was announced in October, she and her deputy Nigel Dodds were informed by British Revenue and Customs that goods coming from Britain to the North would face customs checks under the agreement.
Speaking in Brussels, Mr Coveney said: “Goods coming from Great Britain into Northern Ireland will need to have some checks to ensure that the EU knows what is potentially coming into their market through Northern Ireland.
“Goods going the other way from NI into Great Britain will have far less requirement for checks at all . . . The British government has indicated that they want frictionless or unfettered access for goods originating in Northern Ireland going into the rest of the UK single market.”
Mr Coveney also cast doubt on the likelihood of a deal on the future relationship between the EU and the UK being hammered out before the end of next year during the Brexit transition period. “That’s possible but there’s an awful lot to do in a relatively short space of time if that is to be achieved,” he said.
Former British attorney general Dominic Grieve yesterday told The Irish Times that Mr Johnson is “simply not telling the truth” when he claims that there will be no checks on the Irish Sea after Brexit. Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell agreed with Ms Foster that Mr Johnson’s claims on the issue could not be trusted.
Mr Johnson yesterday faced accusations that he is uncaring after he refused to look at a photograph of a four-year-old boy forced to sleep on the floor of an overcrowded hospital emergency department. Questioned about the incident during a visit to Sunderland, Mr Johnson took ITV reporter Joe Pike’s phone and put it in his pocket rather than look at the picture.
The photograph, first published by the Daily Mirror, showed Jack Williment-Barr, who was thought to have pneumonia, lying on a pile of coats on the floor at Leeds General Hospital with an oxygen mask at his side because all beds were occupied.