Boris Johnson: ‘I’ll find it very difficult’ to vote for Rishi Sunak’s Northern Ireland Brexit deal

Boris Johnson speaking at the Global Soft Power Summit at the QEII centre on Thursday  (REUTERS)
Boris Johnson speaking at the Global Soft Power Summit at the QEII centre on Thursday (REUTERS)

Boris Johnson has said he will find it “very difficult” to vote for Rishi Sunak’s new Northern Ireland post-Brexit trade deal.

The former Prime Minister raised concerns about the Windsor Framework deal on Thursday, saying “this is not about the UK taking back control”.

In a Westminster speech, the former prime minister said: “I’m going to find it very difficult to vote for something like this myself, because I believed we should’ve done something very different. No matter how much plaster came off the ceiling in Brussels.

“I hope that it will work and I also hope that if it doesn’t work we will have the guts to employ that (Northern Ireland Protocol) Bill again, because I have no doubt at all that that is what brought the EU to negotiate seriously.”

Mr Sunak has hailed his deal with the EU arguing it removes barriers on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland introduced as part of Mr Johnson’s 2019 Brexit deal.

The Windsor Framework also hands a “veto” to the UK government to block new EU laws on goods trade in the region if politicians in Northern Ireland raise significant concerns.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which opposes the Northern Ireland Protocol and has been boycotting the Stormont assembly in protest, is currently weighing whether to back the deal.

Meanwhile pro-Brexit ultras on the right of the Tory party are also closely studying the complex set of arrangements but Mr Sunak appears to have so far avoided a major baacklash in his own party.

The government has committed to giving MPs a say on the deal but hasn’t yet set a date for the vote.

In his speech at the Brand Finance Global Soft Power Summit, Mr Johnson acknowledged that people wanted to move on from Brexit seven years after the country voted to leave the EU.

But he insisted the Government should remember it was a “Brexit Government” and that he would “do more” from the backbenches to explain and defend the purpose of Brexit.

Mr Johnson raised numerous concerns about the Windsor agreement, adding: “I’m conscious I’m not going to be thanked for saying this, but I think it is my job to do so: we must be clear about what is really going on here.

“This is not about the UK taking back control, and although there are easements this is really a version of the solution that was being offered last year to Liz Truss when she was foreign secretary.

“This is the EU graciously unbending to allow us to do what we want to do in our own country, not by our laws but by theirs.”

Ahead of the Budget later this month, he said Mr Sunak should consider slashing corporation tax, which is set to rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in April, to compete with lower business tax rates in the Republic of Ireland.

And in a dig at his successors in No10 he said Labour had only stretched their lead in the polls after he stepped down last year.

He said: “By the way, just to point out purely for accuracy when I stepped down we were only a handful of points behind the Labour Party at that moment and I’m just saying that.”

Labour currently has a 20 plus point lead in the polls.

But he suggested that he had no ambition to return to another major job in politics insisting he had writing deadlines to meet.