There will be border checks on trade inside the UK under the Brexit deal negotiated by Boris Johnson, the EU’s chief negotiator has said.
Michel Barnier confirmed there would be “checks and controls” between Britain and Northern Ireland under the agreement that will govern the UK’s exit from the EU.
Boris Johnson falsely claimed several times during the general election campaign that there would be no checks on the Irish sea, and was accused by the opposition of lying.
Whether the prime minister had misunderstood the agreement he had signed or was indeed lying to the public, the text of the deal signed in November is clear that there will indeed be checks.
“The implementation of this foresees checks and controls entering the island of Ireland,” Mr Barnier said during a sitting of the European Parliament.
“I look forward to constructive cooperation with British authorities to ensure that all provisions are respected and made operational.”
Mr Barnier had kept quiet during the UK general election campaign, telling anyone who asked him – even in private – that he did not want to say anything that could have political impact and undermine his Brexit deal.
Mr Johnson repeated his claim just on Monday, telling a press conference: “Be in no doubt. We are the government of the United Kingdom. I cannot see any circumstances whatever in which they will be any need for checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to GB.
“The only circumstances in which you could imagine the need for checks coming from GB to NI, as I’ve explained before, is if those goods were going on into Ireland and we had not secured, which I hope and I’m confident we will, a zero-tariff, zero-quota agreement with our friends and partners in the EU.”
During the election campaign he was even more emphatic, saying: “We will make sure that businesses face no extra costs and no checks for stuff being exported from NI to GB.”
But his analysis does not accurately reflect what is in the Brexit deal he signed.
The government’s own internal analysis, leaked during the general election campaign, said there would be checks on goods in both directions between the two parts of the UK.
It also said there would be a devastating impact on the Northern Irish economy and claimed 98 per cent of Northern Ireland export businesses would be “likely to struggle to bear this cost” of customs declarations and documentary and physical checks on goods within the UK.