Belfast Telegraph

Home News Brexit

PM could break Brexit deadlock by testing support in Commons for customs union: Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons
Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has called on Prime Minister Theresa May to hold a Commons vote on a permanent customs union to help break the current impasse.

Speaking ahead of a visit to Belfast today, the Labour MP accused the Government of pursuing a negotiating strategy designed to keep the Conservative Party from splitting.

Sir Keir said that if the Prime Minister was serious about building consensus in Parliament she would start by testing the support of MPs for a permanent customs union with the EU.

He said it would be an important first step in negotiating an agreement with the EU that protects jobs and the economy, and guarantees no return of a hard border in Northern Ireland.

He will meet political, business and trade union leaders on his visit here today.

He said: "The Brexit negotiations are once again in a state of paralysis.

"Rather than trying to negotiate a deal that could command majority support in Parliament, the Prime Minister is pursuing unrealistic changes to the withdrawal agreement that are simply designed to keep the Conservative Party together.

"There is growing anxiety among communities and businesses in Northern Ireland about the threat of a no-deal Brexit and the return of a hard border with the Republic.

"If the Prime Minister is serious about building a consensus, then, as a first step, she should start by testing the support of Parliament for a permanent customs union as part of our future relationship with the EU.

"I strongly believe this could now command majority support and there is plenty of time in the coming weeks for such a vote to be held. Parliament could then move on to other aspects of the close economic relationship with the EU that we need. A customs union with single market alignment is the only way to guarantee against a hard border in Northern Ireland and it's time the Government accepted that."

Ahead of her meeting with Sir Keir, Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said she will tell him the backstop remains the bottom line in protecting the Good Friday Agreement and ensuring no return to a hard border.

She said: "I will take the opportunity once more to make it clear to him that the backstop as already agreed must be protected and maintained.

"This follows the joint statement issued by the four pro-Remain parties and majority voice here. It also follows a series of meetings with the business community and others from across society who are gravely concerned about the attempts by the British Parliament to abandon the backstop and the protections it affords the north from Brexit, which is a gross act of bad faith.

"I will be relaying those concerns to Keir Starmer and reminding him once again that the backstop cannot be unilaterally torn up and that is absolutely necessary to avoid a hard Brexit border and to protect the Good Friday Agreement."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph