Boris Johnson talks up close ties with Northern Ireland ahead of Brexit trade deal deadline
Boris Johnson is set to visit Northern Ireland today
Boris Johnson has set out plans to boost ties with Northern Ireland ahead of the next round of Brexit trade talks.
The Prime Minister is set to unveil new plans for a "Centenary Forum" to mark 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland during a visit later today as he vowed to leave no part of the country behind.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Johnson laid out his hopes to "rebuild stronger" in the wake of the pandemic in a bid to allow the country to take "full advantage of the many opportunities" offered by Britain's impending departure from the European Union.
And he said the "close cooperation" between Westminster and Stormont had helped provide protection for more than 316,000 jobs through the Government's furlough scheme as well as providing an additional £2.2bn in extra funding for the Northern Ireland Executive's own pandemic response.
Mr Johnson will hold talks Ireland's Taoiseach Micheál Martin on the UK's post-Brexit negotiations with the EU, ahead of the next round of trade talks with the bloc set for 17 August.
Britain has already set a deadline of October to reach a trade deal despite EU negotiator Michel Barnier warning last month it was now "unlikely" the two sides would reach an agreement.
Mr Johnson said: "As the country begins to get back on its feet in the wake of coronavirus, we cannot simply strive to rebuild, but we must commit to building back stronger than ever.
"I cannot overstate how important the close co-operation that we have seen between central and devolved government will continue to be to this.
"Together, we will make sure Northern Ireland is ready to take full advantage of the many opportunities that lie ahead and that no part of Northern Ireland is left behind.
"As we mark 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland, it is important that we celebrate its people, culture and traditions, along with its vital contribution to the United Kingdom."
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis added: "I am delighted that the Prime Minister is in Northern Ireland, and has announced the first stage of our plans to mark this centenary.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for people right across the UK to celebrate Northern Ireland and its integral place within our Union. We will use the centenary next year to promote it on the world stage.
"The establishment of a Centenary Forum and Centenary Historical Advisory Panel will offer us the opportunity to work with a broad spectrum of people, including those from across the political parties, business, tourism and the voluntary and community sectors, to deliver an ambitious and exciting programme of events to mark this significant national anniversary for the UK."