British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson drew ridicule Tuesday for suggesting that problems with the Irish border after Brexit could be managed in a similar way to travel across London boroughs.
The leading eurosceptic highlighted technological innovations used in the capital to calculate a traffic charge to explain why the government’s plans to leave the EU’s customs union and single market need not lead to border checks in Ireland.
“There’s no border between Camden and Westminster,” he told BBC radio, referring to two local authority areas in London.
“But when I was mayor of London we anaesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds (dollars, euros) from the accounts of people travelling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks whatever.”
Questioned about his analogy between travelling across one city and the cross-border trade between two countries, Ireland and Northern Ireland, he insisted it was “a very relevant comparison”.
“There’s all sorts of scope for pre-booking, electronic checks, all sorts of things that you can do to obviate the need for a hard border to allow us to come out of the customs union, take back control of our trade policy and do trade deals,” he said.
There are fears that reintroducing checks on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland could threaten the fragile peace on the island.
Labour MP David Lammy, who represents a constituency in London, said Johnson’s comparison was “not only rank stupidity, it is ignorant and wilfully reckless”.
In Ireland, Fianna Fail MP Stephen Donnelly tweeted: “I lived in Camden for several years, and was never stopped crossing the ‘border’ to Islington.
“I have, however, had military rifles pointed at me when crossing into Northern Ireland in the ’90s. Suggesting these borders are the same is extraordinary,” he said.