Simon Hoare takes Johnson and Hunt to task over backstop

By John Campbell
BBC News NI Economics & Business Editor

  • Published
Jeremy Hunt and Boris JohnsonImage source, Getty images/Reuters
Image caption,
Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are competing for the Tory leadership

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have taken a "very dangerous step" by promising not to have a backstop in any Brexit deal, the chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has said.

Conservative MP Simon Hoare was responding to comments the two men made in a debate on Monday.

The backstop is a way of maintaining a soft Irish border in the absence of other solutions.

It would involve significant continuing alignment between the UK and EU.

During the Brexit process some Conservative ministers and MPs have suggested the backstop could be acceptable if it had a time limit.

But in a debate hosted by the Sun and TalkRadio, Mr Johnson said his policy would be "no to time limits or unilateral escape hatches or these kind of elaborate devices, glosses, codicils and so on which you could apply to the backstop".

'Worrying and depressing'

"The problem is really fundamental. It needs to come out."

Jeremy Hunt agreed, describing the backstop as "dead".

Mr Hoare told Sky News that the comments were "worrying and depressing" and that the men had taken a harder position than "diehard" Brexit supporters.

He added: "This is a very, very dangerous step that both men seem to have taken yesterday."

Image caption,
Simon Hoare, chair of the NI Affairs Committee, said the men had taken a 'very dangerous step'

Mr Hoare has been a supporter of Theresa May's Brexit deal, voting for it three times and describing himself as having "no problem" with the backstop.

In June, the Taoiseach (Irish prime minister), Leo Varadkar, said removing the backstop from the withdrawal agreement, would be "effectively the same as no deal".

"If we don't have that (the backstop), there is no deal," Mr Varadkar said.

"What people are saying is 'give up the backstop', which we know will work legally and operationally in return for something that doesn't yet exist but might exist in the future.

"I can't do that to the border communities."