Boris Johnson: Brexit backstop must end before 2022 general election
The insurance policy designed to ensure no return to a hard border in Ireland must end before the 2022 general election, Boris Johnson has declared.
The former Foreign Secretary said he could support a Brexit deal with the EU containing the so-called Irish backstop provided it was constrained by strict guidelines.
Theresa May is seeking major changes to the controversial clause after it was comprehensively rejected by MPs.
Some pro-Brexit figures have demanded the backstop be removed entirely from the 500-page Withdrawal Agreement, but Mr Johnson said adding a time-limit or a mechanism allowing the UK to leave unilaterally would suffice.
In a speech on Monday, he fleshed out his demands by saying any time limit would have to expire before the next general election - currently scheduled for 2022.
“I think it must be pretty obvious that if you are going to have a time limit to the backstop - and I think that would be very good - it has got to fall before the next election,” he told a meeting in Parliament.
“There is no point in having a time limit to the backstop some years after the next general election. And as I say there has got to be away in which the UK can come out unilaterally.”
Critics of the backstop plan argue it could leave the UK tied to EU rules indefinitely and potentially lead to the break-up of the UK.
Hardline Tory MPs and the DUP - which props up the minority government led by Mrs May - have argued the Withdrawal Agreement itself must be amended to tweak the backstop plans.
Asked this morning whether an additional document containing legally binding changes would suffice, Mr Johnson said: “I don’t think that would be good enough.”
Speaking to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, he added: “I think that I would want to look very carefully at what was being proposed and it would have to give the UK a UK-sized exit from the backstop.”
Elsewhere at the parliamentary meeting, Mr Johnson said it "would be a very good thing" if the UK could strike a free movement deal with Australia after Brexit.