Downing Street has insisted it wants “no hard border and no physical infrastructure” on the frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic, after Boris Johnson suggested some “very minimal controls” would be acceptable.
The Foreign Secretary also said leaving the European Union without a Brexit deal holds no terrors for the UK, which would do “very well” on World Trade Organisation terms.
Speaking to an audience of Telegraph subscribers, Mr Johnson said Brexit would be a “triumphant success”.
The Telegraph reported Mr Johnson saying: “I’ve never been one of those who is apprehensive about the so-called no deal scenario.
“No deal is better than a bad deal.
“If we have to come out on WTO terms we will be prepared to do so.
“It doesn’t hold terrors for me and we will do very well under those circumstances as well.”
On the issue of the frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic, Mr Johnson said it “will be possible to have very, very minimal controls at the border”.
He said the issue “has understandably a great deal of political, emotional charge” and it is “all too forgivable for politicians to wish to be absolutely certain about how things will work”.
Asked whether Mr Johnson’s comments amounted to official Government policy, a Downing Street spokesman said: “As the Prime Minister has set out, we are firmly committed to working towards a deep and ambitious partnership with the EU. That remains our position.
“As any responsible government would, we are continuing to prepare for all scenarios, but our focus remains on securing this deep and ambitious partnership.
“On the border question, as the Foreign Secretary set out, he said there would be no need for a hard border. That remains our position. No need for any physical infrastructure.”
Mr Johnson also indicated he would be prepared to accept the timetable for the Brexit transition period set out by Brussels, expiring at the end of 2020.
“That would suit me fine,” he said.
The Prime Minister has suggested a transition period should last for around two years – which would expire near the end of March 2021 – while Brexit Secretary David Davis has put a range of between 21 and 27 months on the deal.