LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised his Conservative Party on Wednesday to deliver a Brexit that would "avoid checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland."
In his first party conference as U.K. prime minister, Johnson told delegates that a fresh text outlining how Britain and Northern Ireland can leave the European Union is being presented to officials in Brussels later Wednesday.
The Conservative leader used his speech in Manchester to emphasize his opinion that the British people have had enough of discussing Brexit and just want it done.
"Voters are desperate for us to focus on their other priorities — what people want, what leavers want, what remainers want, what the whole world wants — is to move on," he said. "That is why we are coming out of the EU on October 31. Let's get Brexit done — we can, we must, and we will."
Johnson added that if the U.K. fails to get a Brexit deal because of what is "essentially a technical discussion," then there is no doubt that Britain will leave without one.
The key outstanding question for Brexit negotiations is how to solve the Irish border question in a withdrawal from the EU. Under the 1998 peace agreement, the border between the Irish Republic and British-ruled Northern Ireland is open.
To applause, Johnson told delegates that "we will under no circumstances have checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland. We will respect the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement."
The prime minister added that his deal "will go further and protect the existing regulatory arrangements for farmers and other businesses on both sides of the border."
Prior to the speech, sterling had fallen in value as investors doubted the proposals would receive warm approval from Brussels. It lost around 0.4% to sit at $1.2250 just before midday London time.
His plan from the U.K. reportedly involves Northern Ireland staying under EU single-market regulations for agri-food and manufactured goods from 2021 until at least 2025, but not in the EU's customs union.
As of 2025, the Northern Ireland Assembly would then decide whether to move toward U.K. or European rules.
Before Johnson's speech, Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney told Sky News that he was "not too encouraged," by the latest proposals from Downing Street.
"Certainly, from what we're reading this morning, I would not be too encouraged by it. Essentially if (Johnson) is proposing customs checks on the island of Ireland, then I don't think that is going to be the basis of an agreement."