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  1. ITV Report

'I wish we had more time to explain the deal' - Prime Minister tries to ease concerns on NI visit

Boris Johnson visited Tayto Castle in Tandragee Credit: Pacemaker

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he wish he had more time to explain his Brexit deal on a one-stop visit in Northern Ireland on Thursday.

Mr Johnson was on a tour of the UK visiting Scotland and Wales earlier in the day.

He visited Tayto's factory in Tandragee, Co Armagh where his potato picking and crisp packing skills were put to the test.

Away from the conveyor belt, the PM was quickly reminded that it was crunch time for his Brexit deal.

Pressed on concerns from unionists regarding checks at Northern Ireland's ports on goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, the PM said checks would only be carried out if the goods were destined for the Republic of Ireland and the European Union.

"Northern Ireland will be part of the UK's trading arrangements," he said.

"We have done a deal that enables Northern Ireland to have completely unfettered access to the single market, no border to the south, but we've also got a deal which keeps unfettered access from Northern Ireland to GB."

The Prime Minister added: "The only way there would be checks on stuff coming from GB to Northern Ireland would be if those good were going on to the EU.

"It's a great deal, I want to be given a chance to sell it again. I think, possibly, there has been a little bit of misunderstanding. It allows the whole of the UK to exit the EU, with Northern Ireland."

Boris Johnson said he had tried Tayto Cheese and Onion on his visit to the famous factory Credit: Pacemaker

Meetings have been held by grassroots unionist groups across Northern Ireland in recent weeks in opposition to the PM's deal.

The DUP, UUP and other unionist parties explicitly disagreed with the proposals arguing that it would cut Northern Ireland off from the rest of the United Kingdom economically and politically.

Mr Johnson said it was 'on the contrary' that he was creating an 'economic united Ireland'.

He said: "The deal says very clearly that Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the UK, Northern Ireland does free trade deals, Northern Ireland will offer its tariff schedules along with the rest of the UK to the rest of the world."

The PM checked for the best quality potatoes on the processing line Credit: Pacemaker

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood criticised Boris Johnson for 'scurrying around in the dark' at Tayto Castle.

“He should speak to front line health service workers dealing with increased workloads, decreasing resources and who haven’t had a fair pay rise in years," said Mr Eastwood.

"He should speak to families facing the bedroom tax or those who’ve lost vital support as a result of the move to PIP and Universal Credit. He should speak to frontier workers and EU nationals concerned about their future."

Sinn Féin’s Mickey Brady accused the PM of avoiding scrutiny on a 'clandestine' visit.

Ending his visit, Mr Johnson told the media that he had some Tayto stocked at 10 Downing Street.