Government officials are reportedly investigating Boris Johnson’s madcap idea of building a 25-mile bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland.
Leaked documents say the Treasury and the Department for Transport have been asked to examine risks and costs of the £15billion project – backed repeatedly by the Tory leader.
It comes despite experts warning the sea channel between Portpatrick and Larne is almost 1,000ft deep and may contain unexploded WW2 bombs.
Downing Street sources today claimed the blustering Prime Minister does not “have a plan” for a bridge and they had not commissioned “specific” advice.
But Channel 4 News quoted leaked documents which show the Prime Minister wants to know “the risks around the project” and “where this money could come from”.
And the Prime Minister has repeatedly backed the idea of a bridge across the Irish Sea – despite his plan for London’s much smaller Garden Bridge ending in expensive failure.
Mr Johnson said in June: “I am an enthusiast for that idea [of a Northern Ireland bridge], I’m going to put it out there.
“I’m all in favour of it but it’s got to be supported by people here in Northern Ireland.”
A government statement last night did not deny the accuracy of the leak to Channel 4 News.
A government spokesman said: “Government regularly commissions work to examine the feasibility of projects.
“During the leadership campaign candidates spoke about a number of issues which resulted in Number 10 commissions ahead of a new Prime Minister taking over.
“This PM has made no secret of his support for infrastructure projects that increase connectivity for people and particularly those that strengthen the Union.”
A Downing Street source later tried to play down the reports, stressing: “It was a commission before Boris became Prime Minister.
“We’ve not commissioned specific bridge advice and do not have a plan for one.”
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom helpfully pointed out a bridge would not be complete before the October 31 Brexit deadline – which is only 50 days away.
She added: “There are amazing ambitions for the future – I’m not ware that is one.”
As mayor of London, Boris Johnson backed a failed plan for a “floating paradise” across the River Thames that blew £43million of public money.
The Garden Bridge was beset by controversy from the start until it was finally scrapped by his successor Sadiq Khan in 2017.
As costs spiralled critics blasted the link for being privately run, yet publicly-subsidised, while there was a more pressing need for Thames crossings elsewhere.
Yet Boris Johnson was a doughty defender of the “vanity project” – even making a secretive trip to San Francisco in 2013 in a bid to get Apple to sponsor it.
Architect Prof Alan Dunlop has said a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland could fuel a “Celtic powerhouse” and cost around £15bn.
Prof Dunlop said while a link from the Mull of Kintyre would be shorter and cheaper, a bridge of about 25 miles from Portpatrick in Scotland would provide a bigger boost.
It comes as the PM’s top Brexit negotiator David Frost holds further talks with EU officials in Brussels, aimed at breaking the deadlock.
Mr Johnson is said to be preparing to soften his position on the Irish Backstop – either to seek a repeatedly rejected “time limit”, despite ruling it out, or an “all-Ireland” deal that could create checks between Northern Ireland and Britain.
Tory sources suggested he might be prepared to consider a Northern Ireland only backstop in a bid to reach agreement with Brussels.
The compromise plan was first offered by the EU at an early stage in negotiations with Theresa May .
But it was dropped after the hardline DUP, who propped up the Tory Government, responded angrily.
Arlene Foster, DUP leader, warned yesterday that the move would be “anti-democratic and unconstitutional”.
But the idea, which could build on a common food and agricultural zone across Ireland, is popular in the province.
Mr Johnson then fuelled speculation he could extend this to effectively create a border down the Irish Sea at a press conference in Dublin.
“The landing zone is clear. We need to find a way to ensure the UK is not kept locked in the backstop arrangement and there’s a way out for the UK,” he said.
“Strip away the politics and at the core of each problem you find practical issues that can be resolved with sufficient energy and a spirit of compromise.”
Downing Street sources denied that the PM was also considering a two-year time limit on the backstop.
“He’s seeking a removal of the backstop, not a time limit,” one insisted.