Tory minister ripped apart on Boris Johnson’s Northern Ireland customs claims
PUBLISHED: 11:21 09 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:21 09 November 2019
Health minister Matt Hancock has said there is “entirely a consistency” when he was confronted with two opposing claims about Brexit border processes in Northern Ireland.
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Hancock was shown footage of the prime minister and the Brexit secretary contradicting each other on what the withdrawal agreement means for customs arrangements, and was asked to account for the difference.
Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay had told a scrutiny committee that exit summary declarations would be needed for goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Yet during a somewhat rambling address on the campaign trail, Johnson told Tories in Northern Ireland: "If somebody asks you to do that, tell them to ring up the prime minister and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin."
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Asked to account for the discrepancy on BBC Breakfast, Hancock told presenter Naga Munchetty that this border issue actually hadn't yet been determined and was a matter for the future trade agreement.
"Well, the crucial thing is that the way in which any of those declarations have to happen in the future will be determined by the agreement that we strike," he said.
He added: "there is entirely a consistency between what the two said".
He said that Johnson had been talking about the sort of trade deal that he aspired to get from the EU, adding that the government wanted to "move beyond" the Brexit deal and not spend "all of its time on the precise details" - and that the discussion on customs declarations "proves the point that I've been making" about that.
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"Instead of British politics being entirely ... spending all of its time on the precise details of the customs declarations and the types of declarations and trade policy - we've got so much else to talk about," he said.
When he was told there is no clarity between the two positions, he said: "There is absolute clarity. The clarity is that if you vote Conservative we'll move beyond these kinds of debates and we'll get Brexit done."
He said customs discussions of this kind are "highly technical" and can be addressed in the future trade agreement.
But Munchetty said: "When a businessperson is asking how many forms do I need to fill in when Brexit happens, that is not minutiae or intricacy. That's going to affect businesses every day. They're right to be concerned about that."
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