Foreign Office Denies Boris Johnson's Staff Told Ireland To 'Ignore' Him

The Foreign Office has denied claims that its officials told the Irish government to ignore Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson during a visit last month, according to reports.

Whitehall officials said "not to listen to whatever [Johnson] had to say" in advance of a trip to Dublin, Sky News reported.

But the Foreign Office responded in a tweet, saying that it did not "recognize this version of events" and that it found the article "disappointing."

The Sky report claimed that the staff were "open" in instructing their opposite numbers across the Irish Sea to "ignore the public utterances" of Johnson.

The visit included a public clash over the contentious issue of the Irish border after Brexit.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters that the British government needed to give him strong assurances that there would be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Britain leaves the European Union.

Coveney said that only once he received these assurances would he be happy for Brexit talks to progress to their next stage.

Boris Johnson Simon Coveney
Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney in Brussels, Belgium, November 13, 2017. The Irish border issue is a key sticking point in Brexit talks. Yves Herman/Reuters

But Johnson said that the border issue could only be settled once the talks had advanced, because most discussion of customs and trade arrangements would take place in the second phase.

Monday will mark the deadline for Theresa May to present proposals on the Irish Border, EU citizens' rights after Brexit, and the size of Britain's "divorce bill" payment on leaving, and have them approved in time for the talks to move to phase two this year.

The Times reported this week that the two sides were close to a deal, which has presented perhaps the greatest obstacle to negotiations so far. Dublin sources told the paper there was "movement" in the debate and the paper said there was "growing confidence" that a deal could be reached in time for the next European Council summit on December 14.