Boris Johnson challenged to visit border

Under fire: Boris Jonson's remarks on Radio 4 have sparked a backlash. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Under fire: Boris Jonson's remarks on Radio 4 have sparked a backlash. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MLA has said that Boris Johnson needs to “come back down to earth” following his comments over the Irish border.

He was speaking after the British Foreign Secretary comparing the problem of the Irish border post-Brexit to the congestion charge technology deployed between London boroughs.

Mr Johnson told BBC Radio 4 this week that “efficient facilitation systems” could be deployed to prevent a hard border. “There’s no border between Islington or Camden and Westminster. When I was mayor of London we anaesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people travelling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks whatever,” he said.

Mr Eastwood challenged Johnson to actually visit the Irish border to see the scale of the challenge himself.

“In an effort to educate Mr Johnson, the SDLP has issued a memo to the Foreign Office detailing the difficulties with a hard border and the realities faced by people, businesses and communities here, the Foyle MLA said, adding:

“It’s easy to characterise Boris Johnson as the cabinet clown but he carries an immense responsibility and has significant influence in the Brexit negotiations. Trivialising the very serious concerns relating to Ireland displays a dangerous ignorance that must be challenged.”

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson meanwhile said Boris Johnson’s remarks highlight how the Tories view the north of Ireland as “collateral damage” in their Brexit agenda.

Martina Anderson said the comments highlighted the need for special status for the north within the EU.

She said: “The frankly ridiculous comments from British Foreign Secretary and arch-Brexiteer Boris Johnson that there is no border between council boroughs in London and that somehow that is comparable to the situation in Ireland shows how out of touch with reality he actually is. He, like many of the Tory cabinet, have so little comprehension of what happens beyond the M25, let alone what the reality is on the ground in Ireland.

“It may have escaped his attention that Ireland is already partitioned and that the reckless Brexit agenda pursued by his government has the potential to copper fasten and increase the huge damage that was done to the island and its people by partition.

“While Boris Johnston is often dismissed by many as some sort of buffoon, his views are reflective of how the Tories view the north in terms of Brexit.”