Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Boris Johnson made personal promise to ‘tear up’ protocol, claims DUP’s Ian Paisley

PM said legal commitments were simply ‘semantics’, claims senior unionist

Adam Forrest
Thursday 14 October 2021 10:40 BST
Boris Johnson promised to ‘tear up’ protocol, claims DUP MP

Boris Johnson made a personal promise to “tear up” the Northern Ireland Protocol once a Brexit deal with the EU was agreed, the senior DUP figure Ian Paisley Jr has claimed.

It follows remarks made by the prime minister’s former adviser Dominic Cummings, who said Downing Street’s plan was always to “ditch the bits we didn’t like”.

Confirming Cummings’ claim, Paisley Jr said Johnson gave him a guarantee before the 2019 general election that protocol commitments in any withdrawal deal with the EU would later be dropped.

“Boris Johnson did tell me personally that he would, after agreeing to the protocol, he would sign up to changing that protocol and indeed tearing it up,” the DUP MP told BBC’s Newsnight.

The unionist also claimed the prime minister referred to the legal commitments governing trade arrangements for Northern Ireland outlined in the protocol as “semantics”.

Paisley Jr added: “The fact of the matter is, I do believe, that the government didn’t really want this to happen to Northern Ireland and they took a short-term bet.

“The trouble is, this has cost the business people of Northern Ireland £850m which we can’t afford so it’s got to be fixed and it’s got to be fixed well.”

Johnson never understood what his Withdrawal Agreement finally signed with the EU in January 2020 really meant, his former chief adviser said in a series of tweets. “He never had a scooby-doo what the deal he signed meant,” wrote Cummings.

The row comes as the EU laid out measures to slash 80 per cent of checks on goods and dramatically cut customs processes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

It follows a series of demands made by Brexit minister David Frost, who urged the EU to agree to fundamental changes to the protocol – and the end the European Court of Justice (ECJ)’s role in trade arbitration.

EU ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida said Brussels has gone the “extra mile” and cannot go any further following Wednesday’s proposals.

“We went to the limits of what we can do to address the problems of Northern Ireland because we care for Northern Ireland,” he told Newsnight.

Brussels is said to be “preparing for the worst” after the UK signalled the EU’s offer was not enough. A British source told The Independent: “Without new arrangements on governance the protocol will never have the support it needs to survive.

Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry called for “a bit of grown-up politics” in ongoing Brexit negotiations. “Stop the dogma, sort out some realistic answers to these problems,” she told Sky News on Thursday.

Asked about Cummings’ claims on plans to ditch the protocol, Thornberry said: “I think it’s appalling that people would even think of representing our country as signing up to an agreement knowing that they weren’t going to implement it – I think it’s appalling.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in