Scottish Secretary: Northern Irish exports will face checks on way to Britain
Alister Jack appeared to contradict Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a confused interview with ITV reporter Gregory Hoare.
Boris Johnson’s claims about post-Brexit border checks appear to have been undermined by his Scottish Secretary, who acknowledged some goods exported from Northern Ireland into Britain would face customs inspections.
The Prime Minister had promised “there won’t be checks” and “no extra details for Northern Ireland exports whatsoever” on items travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
He has since said there would be checks if goods are going on to the Republic of Ireland.
Alister Jack said in an interview that goods coming to Scotland from Northern Ireland “will be checked at either Larne or Belfast” under the Conservatives’ Brexit plan.
An apparently disorientated Scottish Secretary initially appeared confused about the direction in which checks would be required, eventually confirming there would be customs requirements for Northern Irish exporters but no checks in Scotland.
Asked how the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement would affect Scottish exporters sending goods to Northern Ireland, Mr Jack said: “There will be no impact from that trade border.”
In the interview with ITV’s Representing Border journalist Gregory Hoare, the Cabinet minister said: “Goods going from west to east will not – sorry from – yes, from west to east, no from east to west, goods going from east to west will not be affected.
“From west to east – I’m doing this because I’m looking at you back to front, I’m looking at you the wrong way – those goods coming from Northern Ireland into the UK, if it’s for health, animals, plants, those goods will be checked at either Larne or Belfast, but there will be no checks at Cairnryan.”
The highly contentious issue of trade within the UK after Brexit has led to Mr Johnson being accused of breaking his word to the DUP leader Arlene Foster, who warned an end to free trade across the Irish Sea would cause “economic instability in Northern Ireland”.
Speaking about trade with Northern Ireland last week, Mr Johnson said: “There will be no checks on goods from GB to Northern Ireland or Northern Ireland to GB.”
It was in response to an allegedly leaked Treasury report detailing a series of new checks and controls that would be required on goods travelling in either direction across the Irish Sea.
The claim was challenged by Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, who argued the Withdrawal Agreement Mr Johnson struck with the European Union would require inspections on goods both to and from the island of Ireland.