Boris Johnson has become the clear frontrunner to succeed Theresa May as British prime minister. Whoever becomes the next incumbent of No 10 Downing Street is obviously a matter, first and foremost, for the people of the UK but it is also a source of concern for us in Ireland, particularly in the context of Brexit negotiations.
Comments made by Mr Johnson a year ago, when he was foreign secretary, show how little he knows about the Irish border issue. In an unguarded moment, he said concerns over a hard border were “pure millennium bug stuff” and fears about it were out of proportion.
“It’s so small and there are so few firms that actually use that border regularly, it’s just beyond belief that we’re allowing the tail to wag the dog in this way,” he said. “We’re allowing the whole of our agenda to be dictated by this folly.”
In September last year, he stated publicly that “1.6% of Irish exports go to Northern Ireland” without acknowledging that this trade is worth €4.5bn.
Mr Johnson described the volume of trade across the Irish border as “so small” — it is anything but. The Republic is Northern Ireland’s single largest export destination and accounts for more than one third of all its goods exports.
Such combination of ignorance and arrogance has been evident in Donald Trump up to now. The likelihood is we will have two buffoons in power on both sides of the Atlantic.