Theresa May’s ex-chief of staff says Johnson denied importance of NI while foreign secretary

Theresa May’s former chief of staff has said Boris Johnson dismissed the importance of Northern Ireland while foreign secretary, in a book released last month.

Gavin Barwell, who worked in Downing Street from 2017 to 2019, told the Institute for Government today that Mr Johnson refused to engage with the complex issues the UK’s exit from the European Union could imply for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Protocol, the arrangement that currently covers the region’s relationship with the EU, was negotiated in October 2019 and agreed to in December 2020.

In his memoir “Chief of Staff”, covering his role during the Brexit transition period, he said Mr Johnson once dismissed the issue of Northern Ireland as a “gnat” in terms of its importance.

In his account of a meeting chaired by then-PM Theresa May in May 2018, he wrote: “Boris was even more dismissive. David [Davis] acknowledged why the prime minister favoured hybrid [a customs model] but Boris was contemptuous of that. “The Northern Ireland issue is a gnat,” he declared.”