Boris Johnson says Theresa May will be 'true to her promises' amid Brexit customs backstop row
Boris Johnson has said he is "convinced" that Theresa May will be "true to her promises of a Brexit deal", amid a furious Conservative Party row over Britain's future customs ties with the European Union.
Leading Brexiteers reacted with outrage last week when Mrs May's Brexit war cabinet threw its weight behind plans for a 'backstop' on the Northern Ireland border issue which would potentially prolong elements of the customs union long after the Brexit transition period expires in 2020.
In carefully-worded remarks, the Foreign Secretary - who spoke out against the backstop option at last week's crunch meeting - said: “Brexiteers fearing betrayal over the customs backstop must understand that the PM has been very clear that it is not an outcome we desire; we want a deal with the EU and she will deliver it.”
The backstop proposal - which has not yet received the blessing of the EU - would be triggered if a solution to the Irish border problem cannot be found before the end of the two-year transition period.
But prominent Tory eurosceptics have warned that the plan could leave the door open to continued customs union membership, an outcome Brexiteers believe will undermine Britain's trade policy after it leaves the EU. Jacob Rees-Mogg last week likened the backstop to a state of "perpetual purgatory".
Mr Johnson - speaking at the start of a five-day visit to Latin America - urged his backbench colleagues to give Mrs May the "time and space" to strike a deal with Brussels.
"I’m convinced that the Prime Minister will be true to her promises of a Brexit deal - that sees Britain come out of the customs union and single market, have borders as frictionless as possible, reject ECJ [European Court of Justice] interference, controls immigration and free to conduct unhindered free trade deals across the world," he said.
“We must now give the Prime Minister time and space to negotiate this Brexit vision.”
Mr Johnson's latest intervention came as a senior Tory backbencher teamed up with the Democratic Unionist Party's Brexit spokesman to lash out at those expressing concern about the impacts of leaving the EU on peace in Northern Ireland.
Writing in The Telegraph, former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson and the DUP's Sammy Wilson said the future of the Good Friday agreement should be left "solely, democratically and peacefully to the people of Northern Ireland".
They added: "Unionists have every right to expect what’s actually in the Agreement is honoured, rather than fantasies about it being cynically and recklessly exploited by Remainers."