Boris Johnson vows to abide by the ‘letter and spirit’ of the Good Friday Agreement as he arrives at Stormont amid claims his hard Brexit plans will spark Irish unification referendum
- Boris Johnson is in Northern Ireland today on the latest leg of his tour of the UK
- The PM is holding talks with political leaders as he tries to revive powersharing
- Mr Johnson facing protests about his hardline Brexit policy of dropping backstop
Boris Johnson vowed to abide by the ‘letter and spirit’ of the Good Friday Agreement as he faced a Brexit backlash on a visit to Northern Ireland today.
The PM said he would ‘insist’ on the terms of the peace deal being honoured as he pushes through the UK’s departure from the EU.
Mr Johnson is holding talks with the province’s political leaders at Stormont as he tries to break the deadlock that has crashed powersharing.
But he faces fury after again insisting that Brexit must happen by the end of October with or without a deal.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said his policy was a “piece of astonishing political and economic self-harm”, and would trigger a referendum on unification of Ireland.
In a tense call with Irish PM Leo Varadkar yesterday, Mr Johnson made clear that the bloc must agree to scrap the hated backstop – designed to avoid a hard border if no other solution can be found – for negotiations to re-start.
Families of people killed during the Troubles are planning to protest on the Stormont estate while the premier is holding his meetings.
The pressure is ramping up on all sides with just 92 days left until Brexit is due to happen.
Mr Johnson seemed to underscore his determination to ‘play chicken’ with the EU yesterday by posing with poultry on a farm in Wales.
However, he also said the UK will leave the bloc’s single market and customs union ‘in the next couple of years’ – suggesting he has still not given up on a managed exit that would include a transition period.
Boris Johnson was greeted by Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith (left) as he arrived at Stormont today vowing to abide by the Good Friday Agreement in the Brexit process
Boris Johnson (pictured arriving at Stormont today) will hold talks with Northern Ireland’s political leaders as he pleads for them to break the deadlock that has crashed powersharing
DUP leader Arlene Foster (pictured in Belfast today) said the confidence and supply agreement with the Tories remains in place
The PM will hold bilateral meetings with the five main parties at Stormont this morning, having dined with the DUP last night.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said today that the confidence and supply agreement with the Tories remains in place. Talks are ongoing about renewing the deal, but Ms Foster insisted it was ‘not just all about money, it’s about giving the government security, it’s about delivering on Brexit’.
She said Mr Johnson would ‘The backstop has been the continuing and fundamental falw within teh WA.
We very much hope our new PM will deal with the issue. He will get across to those in the EU and Dublin that they cannot break up the UK, because that is essentially what the backstop was doing.’
Ms Foster said the backstop was ‘running a coach and horses’ through the Good Friday Agreement because it did not meet the principle of consent.
Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for two-and-a-half years, with hamstrung civil servants running under pressure public services amid a reluctance by the Government to re-introduce direct rule.
Stormont’s two main parties – the DUP and Sinn Fein – remain at loggerheads over a series of long-standing disputes, with a series of talks initiatives aimed at securing a resolution having ended in failure.
Mr Johnson seemed to underscore his determination to ‘play chicken’ with the EU yesterday by posing with poultry on a farm in Wales
Mr Johnson’s visit to Stormont comes amid deadlock in the latest talks process.
Ahead of the visit, Mr Johnson said the region had been without proper governance ‘for much, much too long’.
He said he would do everything in his power to help the parties reach agreement.
‘The people of Northern Ireland have now been without an executive and assembly for two years and six months – put simply this is much, much too long,’ he said.
‘Northern Ireland’s citizens need and deserve the executive to get up and running again as soon as possible, so that locally accountable politicians can take decisions on the issues that really matter to local people.
‘I’m pleased to meet each of Northern Ireland’s party leaders today to stress that I am going to do everything in my power to make the ongoing talks to restore devolution a success.’
Mr Johnson arrived in Northern Ireland on Tuesday evening when he dined with senior members of the DUP to discuss the renewal of his Government’s confidence and supply deal with the unionist party at Westminster.
In a tense call with Irish PM Leo Varadkar (pictured at Galway races this week), Mr Johnson made clear that the EU must agree to scrap the hated backstop for negotiations to re-start
Ms Foster, deputy leader Nigel Dodds and party whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson attended last night dinner with the Prime Minister.
The DUP’s 10 MPs have propped up the minority Government since the 2017 general election – an arrangement that delivered a £1 billion boost in public spending in Northern Ireland.
New Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith did not attend.
It is understood his absence was designed to underline that the engagement was about the confidence and supply deal, not the powersharing dispute.
The focus will shift to the Stormont logjam this morning.
The last DUP/Sinn Fein-led powersharing coalition imploded in January 2017 when the late Martin McGuinness quit as Sinn Fein deputy first minister amid a row about a botched green energy scheme.
The fallout over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) was soon overtaken by disputes over the Irish language, same-sex marriage and the toxic legacy of the Troubles.
Mr Johnson’s visit is his first to Northern Ireland as Prime Minister.
It comes following visits to Scotland, Wales and cities across England earlier this week.
He previously announced that the Mid South West Growth Deal in Northern Ireland will receive a share of £300million new funding, to help boost business and enhance opportunities for people in the region.
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