- Boris Johnson’s government has admitted that it will erect Brexit border posts with Northern Ireland after the prime minister previously insisted it would never do so.
- The UK prime minister said before last year’s general election that no such posts would ever be created.
- “There’s no question of there being checks on goods going NI/GB or GB/NI,” Johnson said in December.
- Johnson told Northern Irish businesses that they should throw customs forms in the bin.
- The UK government will now construct three border posts at Northern Irish ports.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The UK government has privately admitted that there will be border checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland after Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously said that no such checks would ever take place.
“There’s no question of there being checks on goods going NI/GB or GB/NI,” Johnson told ITV back in December.
Johnson was also filmed in November last year telling Northern Irish business leaders that there would “absolutely not” be any checks at the border with Great Britain, adding that if any business were told to fill in customs declarations, he would “direct them to throw that form in the bin.”
However, Declan Kearney, a junior minister in Northern Ireland, revealed on Wednesday that Johnson’s UK government had now confirmed that it would erect border inspection posts at three ports in Northern Ireland.
In comments reported by The Guardian newspaper, Kearney said: “The sum total of that, and without breaching executive confidentiality… [is that the] British government has confirmed it will urgently put in place detailed plans with the executive, which does include the physical posts at ports of entry.”
The posts are a requirement of the Brexit deal signed between the UK and the EU as well as Johnson’s insistence that the UK must leave the Single Market and Customs Union. Under the terms of the deal, Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules and customs procedures, in order to avoid controversial border checks with the Republic of Ireland.
However, Johnson had repeatedly insisted that checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain could be avoided.
The posts will handle checks on live animals and goods of animal origin. Border inspection posts will be constructed at ports in Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast, as well as in Warrenpoint and Larne, the Guardian reported.
Johnson’s opponents accused him of breaking his promises to the province.
“The Prime Minister made promises to people and businesses in Northern Ireland that he couldn’t keep, and this is the reality of the deal he signed-up to back in October,” Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Louise Haigh, said.
She added: “Instead of slogans what businesses in Northern Ireland need now from the Government, above all else, is detail on what these new procedures will mean for them.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman told the Guardian: “We have always been clear that there will be requirements for live animals and agri-food, building on what already happens at ports like Larne and Belfast.
“We want to work with NI businesses and the executive to ensure new admin procedures are streamlined and efficient. The protocol puts legal obligations on both sides. We are committed to complying with ours, just as we expect the EU to comply with theirs.”
A spoksperson for Prime Minister Johnson on Thursday added: “Our position is exactly the same as what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster [Michael Gove] set out last week.
“There will be requirements for checks on live animals and agri-food, building on what already happens at ports like Larne and Belfast, where checks already take place.
“Beyond limited changes introduced by the protocol, there’ll be no changes to GB-NI trade.”
Northern Irish business groups told Business Insider they faced a “herculean task” to prepare for the changes.
“We are now 6 weeks out from the deadline to extend the transition extension with still no clarity on checks, SPS, tariffs, VAT, security & safety, transit — and no visible plan out of this,” Aodhán Connolly, Director at Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said.
He added: “In January I said that this would be a herculean task to get everything in place on time. It has only gotten harder since then.”
The European Commission earlier this month warned that time was running out for the UK to implement the new systems needed to carry out new checks, warning “time is short” and that UK reassurances “urgently need to be followed up by tangible measures.”
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The Freight Transport Association, which represents logistics firms, has also warned there is a “substantial” shortage of customs officials in the UK, who will be needed to help smaller businesses fill out new documentation.
The FTA have called on the UK government to foot the bill of implementing new systems, saying “Northern Irish businesses or logistics providers should not be burdened with the new costs in order to continue facilitating current or new trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
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