BORIS Johnson, who was introduced to the DUP Conference as a “friend of the union” and to wild applause, opened his speech in Belfast by the praising the DUP’s role in preserving the Union and ensuring the government was not in the hands of Jeremy Corbyn.
He said that Britain is “on the verge of making a historic mistake”. If the backstop is not junked then Brussels will have us “exactly where it wants us” and Britain will be reduced to a “satellite state”. Brussels have made Northern Ireland their “indispensable bargaining chip”. Now is the time to “point out the iceberg ahead”.
Northern Ireland must not be left behind as a “semi-colony” of the EU. No Conservative and Unionist government could or should sign up to an agreement that allows this. He flatly contradicted Prime Minister Theresa May and said that this deal does not represent “taking back control” from the EU. He said the way forward was to bank what is good in the Withdrawal Agreement but the Irish Backstop must be junked and an agreement be made that no hard border be introduced in Northern Ireland.
The implementation period should be used to negotiate a free trade agreement. At least half the £39billion should be withheld until this deal is done. The government should appoint a Minister for no deal so that the government is at least prepared. Brexit should “not be treated like it is a plague of frogs”” We need to have the courage and self belief to do things differently if we need too.”
In other policy commitments, Johnson said he would like work to begin on a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland and he hoped strong regional government would be revived and the Stormont Parliament would soon be sitting again. People across the world are “aching” for Britain to be a beacon of free trade, he said.
Finishing his speech and leaving the platform to a standing ovation he said he hoped that the Conservative Party and the DUP could continue to work together as “passionate Unionists”.