BORIS Johnson has effectively ditched his plan for a 30-mile link between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister downgraded his much-criticised idea for a £20billion bridge or tunnel to a mere “ambition” and said it could only happen “substantially” after other major projects such as high speed rail.

"Perhaps although it remains an ambition, it’s not the most immediate," he said.

Mr Johnson had championed the idea since before becoming Prime Minister in 2019, saying all that was stopping it was "an absence of political will".

In March, a Union Connectivity Review ordered by Mr Johnson into more transport links between the four nations recommended a feasibility study into a tunnel connecting Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which critics described it as a “vanity project”.

The 45-km (28 mile) tunnel from Portpatrick in Dumfries & Galloway to Larne in County Antrim, dubbed the ‘Boris burrow’, would cost £15bn to £20bn.

Both the Scottish and Northern Ireland governments questioned whether the money would be far better spent on something else.

In July, the PM’s former top aide Dominic Cummings was scathing about the idea. 

He said: “The Prime Minister’s only agenda is, buy more trains, buy more buses, have more bikes, and build the world’s most stupid tunnel to Ireland. That’s it.”

Earlier this month, it emerged that Mr Jonson faced significant opposition from Chancellor Rishi Sunak as they negotiated on spending ahead of his Budget next month.

The Financial Times reported officials considered the project “dead” given the focus on controlling the public finances after unprecedented spending during the Covd pandemic.

Speaking to reporters as he travelled by Amtrak train between Washington and New York at the end of his US visit, Mr Johnson hinted the HS2 railway network would still go ahead, but he backed away from the idea of a Scotland-NI link.

He said: “What I would say perhaps about the tunnel/bridge is perhaps although it remains an ambition, it’s not the most immediate. It will be delivered substantially after the rest of the programme that you have just described.”

Experts have also warned that the depth of the Irish Sea and the presence of dumped munitions in Beaufort’s Dyke would cause problems.

In November 2018, Mr Johnson said: “The problem is not the undersea Beaufort’s Dyke or lack of funds. The problem is an absence of political will.”

Abandoning the project so early could end up saving a fortune in taxpayers’ money.

The controversial Garden Bridge over the Thames that Mr Johnson backed while London mayor was scrapped after receiving £43m of public investment.