BoJo in Ulster: Tory Brexiteer Tells DUP Conference EU Wants ‘Bargaining Chip’ Northern Ireland as ‘Semi-Colony’

Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Tory Brexiteer Boris Johnson has told the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) conference that the EU is using Northern Ireland as a “bargaining chip” in the Brexit negotiations, and that Theresa May’s “deal” with the bloc is an “economic and political humiliation” which risks turning the Province into a “semi-colony”.

The former Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who resigned from Theresa May’s government over her Chequers plan for an ultra-soft Brexit, began his speech to the DUP conference by thanking the Northern Irish party for supporting his own party’s minority government to achieve a working parliamentary majority.

Their support, he said, had allowed the United Kingdom to avoid the “real danger, after that election in June [2017], that the government of the whole UK could have been handed over to Jeremy Corbyn… A Labour leader who along with his putative chancellor John McDonnell actually believes that the real problem with the Venezuelan economy is that Hugo Chavez was not able to implement the entirety of his demented socialist agenda… [and] who has not only campaigned for a united Ireland but who has still – to the best of my knowledge – failed to condemn the terrorist atrocities of the IRA.”

On the controversial draft withdrawal agreement his Prime Minister has negotiated with the EU — but which both Johnson and the DUP vigorously oppose — he emphasised both the essential loss of sovereignty it would entail and, in particular, the damage it would do to Northern Ireland as an integral part of the British Union.

“Unless we junk this backstop, we will find that Brussels has got us exactly where they want us – a satellite state,” he exclaimed — referring to the “single customs territory” arrangements which will prevail after the years-long Brexit “transition” period, unless a different deal is struck in the meantime.

“We will continue to accept the terms under which they have a surplus in trade in goods with us of £95 billion. But with no power to influence those terms. We won’t be able to do free trade deals of any value or significance,” he said.

The former two-time Mayor of London explained that the EU had been able to extract these terms by the “very clever trick” of turning Northern Ireland into “their indispensable bargaining chip”.

He warned that the special conditions for the Province in the withdrawal agreement’s so-called backstop, which would leave it more firmly embedded in the EU than the rest of the United Kingdom in order to keep its border with the Irish Republic open, will result in “the birth of a new country called UK-NI” — which the Tory MP pronounced as “Ucknee”.

Johnson described how “Ucknee” would “no longer [be] exclusively ruled by London or Stormont – it is in large part to be ruled by Brussels. And UK-NI will have to accept large swathes of EU regulations now and in the future.”

He also pointed out the EU would be unlikely to agree a less onerous deal once the “backstop” was enshrined in treaty, as the United Kingdom would have already handed over £39 billion to Brussels and agreed to customs and regulatory arrangements which would prevent it from striking meaningful trade deals or making itself more competitive than EU economies.

“They don’t want us doing those free trade deals. They don’t want goods from third countries undercutting the vast EU exports to the UK. Think what price they will ask, in the coming negotiations, for giving us our freedom,” he warned.

The Tory heavyweight stopped short of calling for Theresa May to be deposed, as fellow Brexiteers such as Jacob Rees-Mogg have, but urged the DUP to stick to its guns in voting down her deal in Parliament in December — a development which could well lead to her resignation.

He also called for the creation of a Secretary of State for ‘No Deal’ Brexit, “with real powers across Whitehall to make things happen.”

“We need urgently to recover our confidence and our self belief, and to stop treating Brexit as if it were a plague of frogs or a murrain on our cattle or some adverse weather event that had to be managed,” he concluded.

“Brexit presents massive opportunities to escape a European model whose signature project is the Euro that is still causing 35 percent absolute poverty in Greece and grossly unnecessary unemployment in much of the EU… We need to have the courage and self-belief to do things differently if we want to and need to.”

He also called on a physical bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland, connecting the Province to the British mainland, which prompted huge cheers.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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