“There will be no checks on goods going from GB to NI and NI to GB because we are going to come out of the EU whole and entire. That was the objective we secured”
Boris Johnson, press conference in Kent
Boris Johnson has claimed that the UK will leave the EU “entire and perfect” and that “we will make sure that businesses face no extra costs and no checks for stuff being exported from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.”
All sides wanted to avoid the return of a hard border and the final deal was inevitably complex, as BBC Reality Check explains.
Under the agreement, the whole of the UK will leave the EU Customs Union. Legally, there will be a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but in practice the actual checks will be done on points of entry from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Assembly will be allowed to vote on these arrangements but only four years after the end of the transition period.
The contentious point is whether customs checks will be made on goods moving from NI to GB and from GB to NI.
Boris Johnson stresses the element of the deal that takes the whole of the UK out of the EU Customs Union. He also insists that Northern Ireland businesses will have unfettered access to the British market.
But there are other interpretations of the agreement, particularly relating to cost and customs declarations.
A UK Treasury document, leaked to Labour during the election, notes that “at a minimum, exit summary declarations will be required when goods are exported to NI to GB.”
Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said firms trading with the rest of the UK faced an extra administrative burden.
And DUP MP Sammy Wilson told the House of Commons on 22 October that Northern Ireland “will be left in an arrangement whereby EU law on all trade, goods and so on will be applied to Northern Ireland. We will be in a situation where, despite what the Prime Minister says, we will be subject to the full implementation of EU customs regulations.”
And he insisted that “despite the promise of unfettered access to the UK market, checks will occur in the opposite direction for the thousands of firms in Northern Ireland that currently export to Great Britain.”
It could be that Boris Johnson is correct and that the treasury, Northern Ireland business leaders, the DUP, the BBC and almost all the specialist fact-checking bodies are wrong. But the compelling detailed evidence is that, as the agreement currently stands, there will be checks both on goods moving from GB to NI and from NI to GB; and that this will result in costs for businesses involved in trade.