The chairman of the Commons Brexit Select Committee has accused the prime minister of abandoning the UK’s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement.
Standing up in the House of Commons, Labour MP Hilary Benn said that the UK government has committed itself to “no checks and controls” anywhere in Ireland.
He said: “For the last three years it has been government policy that border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit would not include checks and controls. That is enshrined in UK law.
“But now the prime minister has announced there will be customs checks in Northern Ireland, and he has – those are the words he used – entertained the possibility that Northern Ireland would never enter the regulatory zone of which he speaks, because if the assembly and the executive don’t agree to do so, that will not happen.”
To jeers and faux outrage from Conservative MPs, Benn continued: “And as a result he has abandoned that commitment and risks the return of a hard border.
How is that consistent with the joint declaration of 2017 sign by his predecessor, the Good Friday Agreement, and the peace and stability in Northern Ireland which has been so hard won.”
But the prime minister continued to claim that there will be no checks or control “at the border” as opposed to in all of Ireland.
He said: “We are driven by the need to protect – and indeed fortify – that process and agreement.
“I think this deal we are setting out gives us the opportunity and gives communities in Northern Ireland the opportunity to build on that process.
“But I must stress to him that he is mistaken if he believes that it will involve – any of our proposals – and necessitate any kind of checks at the border.
“That is absolutely untrue or indeed any kind of hard border because that is – I must him respectfully, tell him respectfully – that is untrue.”
The SNP’s Patricia Gibson stood up to suggest the prime minister, in his attempt to avoid an Irish border, had “resulted in him creating two borders”.
Lady Hermon, Independent MP for North Down, meanwhile said: “The prime minister’s proposals prove quite clearly that he does not understand Northern Ireland.
“While the prime minister is perfectly happy, it seems, to dance to the tune of his friends in the Democratic Unionist Party, he forgets or chooses to ignore the fact that the DUP does not represent the majority of people in Northern Ireland.
“The DUP campaigned for leave, along with (Johnson), but the majority of people in Northern Ireland voted remain.
“The majority of people in Northern Ireland will be extremely concerned by the proposals that he has tabled yesterday, which introduce two borders in Northern Ireland.”
She added people in Northern Ireland “certainly do not want” the UK to leave the EU without a deal, adding: “What people in Northern Ireland really want, all of them, is to continue to enjoy the peace and stability delivered by the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.”
Johnson offered to meet with Lady Hermon, insisting the UK government wants to abide by every clause and principle of the Good Friday Agreement.