Theresa May told to publish Boris Johnson Northern Ireland border memo

It comes after a leak of the correspondence revealed how the Foreign Secretary told the PM it is not Britain’s responsibility to prevent a hard border in Ireland after Brexit

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Thursday 01 March 2018 10:29 GMT
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (Getty)

Theresa May has been told to publish in full a memo sent to her by Boris Johnson on the the subject of the Northern Ireland border.

It comes after a leak of the correspondence revealed how the Foreign Secretary told Ms May it is not Britain’s responsibility to prevent a hard border in Ireland after Brexit.

Mr Johnson instead urged the Prime Minister to agree it should be the Government’s objective to prevent the crossing becoming “significantly harder” in the memo obtained by Sky News.

Boris Johnson: Northern Irish border being used to try and keep the UK in the customs union

In an attempt to play down the issue the Foreign Secretary told reporters on Wednesday outside his central London residence that he might publish the letter himself.

“I’ll put it online myself, how about that?” he said. “I don’t have it now – but we’ll certainly do that.”

But in the absence of any publication Chris Leslie, a Labour MP and supporter of the pro-EU pressure group, Open Britain, has written to Ms May, demanding the memo be publicly released.

He said: “Given the Foreign Secretary suggested this morning that he would publish the letter so people could make up their own mind on its contents, I later asked the Cabinet minister [David Lidington] to tell us when this would happen.

“However, the minister indicated that the letter will not be published at all. I believe it would be wrong not to publish the letter in full. All of us have the right to know what the Government’s plans are for the border in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Leslie continued: “You have repeatedly committed that your Government will not allow Brexit to lead to the re-emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland. Everyone agrees that this commitment is vital in order to maintain the fragile progress we have achieved in the Northern Ireland peace process since the dark days of The Troubles. Nobody wants a return to that terrible past.

“That’s why it was deeply worrying to hear reports that your Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, wrote a secret letter to you in which he apparently said that it should not be the Government’s job to ensure ‘no border’ and in which he appeared relaxed about the re-emergence of a hard border.”

On Wednesday Mr Johnson also faced ridicule and was branded a “disgrace” in the Commons after failing to answer and urgent question from Labour on the issue of the Irish border after Brexit.

MPs heckled the Foreign Secretary who left the chamber shortly after Prime Minister’s Questions and Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, described his absence as a “huge discourtesy”.

It also followed Mr Johnson’s comparison of the Irish border to boundaries between Camden and Westminster – two London boroughs.

Asked about the comments by the Daily Telegraph, Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, reportedly “rolled her eyes”, adding: “I think that was an unfortunate analogy.”

“This is a serious and technical issue that requires serious minds to give it the correct amount of thought. It’s not really one for casual disregard.

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