Boris Johnson ‘doesn’t understand his own Brexit policy’ warns Northern Irish businessman

Paul Stewart, managing director of Northern Irish shipping firm, was commenting after the Prime Minister’s trip to the region on November 7. Asked by another businessman, Irwin Armstrong, whether companies could assure their staff no customs declarations would be needed to be filled in for goods leaving Northern Ireland for the UK, Mr Johnson said: “You can.

“If somebody asks you to do that tell them to ring up the prime minister and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin.”

In doing so, he appeared to contradict his own Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay, who said last month Northern Irish businesses would have to submit customs declaration forms after first denying it would be the case.

Shadow Brexit secretary, Labour’s Keir Starmer, later tweeted that Mr Johnson’s remarks suggested he ”either doesn’t understand the deal he has negotiated or he isn’t telling the truth”.

I am unsure if Boris Johnson fully understands his deal, specifically when it comes to how it affects Northern Ireland

Paul Stewarrt

And Mr Stewart told he had similar concerns, explaining: “I am unsure if Boris Johnson fully understands his deal, specifically when it comes to how it affects Northern Ireland.

“The Brexit secretary has made it clear that there will be extra checks and paperwork required for shipments coming from Northern Ireland to GB Mainland.

“Boris’ comments in Northern Ireland last week contradict this, indicating that either he does not understand the deal or was using spin to avoid any backlash whilst in Northern Ireland.

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“It is difficult for businesses in Northern Ireland to make any preparations when there is so much uncertainty.”

Mr Stewart added: “For a business based in Northern Ireland, Brexit is obviously a very serious issue.

“The hoops we have to jump through when exporting outside of the EU currently take up a considerable amount of time for us.

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“If those same hurdles applied to our business with all European countries too it would be an absolute nightmare.

“Brexit has had an effect on our European market as less people are moving to and from Europe until they know the outcome, we help with a lot of European relocations.

“2020 we have a real push on our international markets outside Europe and wish to gain more traction in USA and Australia.”

The question of arrangements for Northern Ireland’s border with the Irish Republic has been central to the Brexit debate.

Speaking to earlier this month, Sammy Wilson, Brexit spokesman with the Democratic Unionist Party, explained what Mr Johnson’s Tories kept getting wrong over Northern Ireland.

He accused both Mr Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May of looking at Brexit through an “English perspective”.

He added: “First of all I think that they were both focused on the needs of the Conservative Party which does not actually get any votes directly in Northern Ireland and therefore they are looking at Brexit through an English perspective.

“Secondly, neither of them seemed to understand the issues clearly or the impact of their deals on Northern Ireland and especially on the economic, constitutional and legal barriers which their deals would have placed between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

“Thirdly, both seem to have relied on Civil Servants who quite frankly wish us to stay in the EU and believe that by accepting a deal which says that Northern Ireland must be treated differently the Government will agree to the softest possible Brexit.”

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