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Boris Johnson has put his faith in optimism to find technological solutions to prevent a hard Irish border if he becomes prime minister, as the DUP impressed on him the need to resolve the issue of the backstop to keep their support.

Writing what is likely to be his final Daily Telegraph column before entering Downing Street on Wednesday, Johnson used the example of the 50th anniversary of the moon landings to argue for a “can-do spirit” in tackling the Brexit impasse.

“If they could use hand-knitted computer code to make a frictionless re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere in 1969, we can solve the problem of frictionless trade at the Northern Irish border,” Johnson wrote in a column that gave no specifics on how this could be done.

“There is no task so simple that government cannot overcomplicate if it doesn’t want to do it. And there are few tasks so complex that humanity cannot solve if we have a real sense of mission to pull them off.”

He added: “It is time this country recovered some of its can-do spirit. We can come out of the EU on 31 October, and yes, we certainly have the technology to do so. What we need now is the will and the drive.”

Voting for Theresa May’s successor closes on Monday. With Johnson the odd-on favourite to defeat Jeremy Hunt in the race when the result in announced on Tuesday, the backstop insurance policy for the Irish border is shaping up to be a key part of his first weeks in power.

Johnson has promised to entirely ditch the backstop, the arrangement negotiated between May and the EU under which Northern Ireland would stay in the customs union and much of the single market if there was no deal on border and security issues following the end of the Brexit transition period. Read more

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