Belfast Telegraph

I'll rebuild Northern Ireland roads if elected Prime Minister, says Labour's Corbyn

By Peter Hutcheon, Local Democracy Reporter

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised hugely improved roads and rail networks across Northern Ireland to deal with the consequences of Brexit if he becomes the next Prime Minister.

Mr Corbyn was addressing the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce at a breakfast meeting with business leaders in the City Hotel as part of his two-day visit to Northern Ireland.

He said a Labour government would establish a network of investments banks in all regions of the UK to invest in infrastructure.

"Quite clearly for this city infrastructure improvements are crucial," he said.

"You need better road connections, obviously, also better rail connections and better connections further south as well. 

"If you want to develop trade elsewhere you are going to need an improved transport infrastructure.

"We believe very strongly in the Labour Party that we have spent far too little in investment in infrastructure over the past decades in this country."

Mr Corbyn repeated his call to the local political parties to get Stormont back up and running and he paid tribute to all those who had worked toward the Good Friday Agreement.

"We believe that there is not a majority for any kind of hard Brexit and it has always been clear to me - even clearer after coming here - is that the idea of any kind of border, physical border, virtual reality border, technical border, whatever between Northern Ireland and the Republic will be very very damaging to the economy and will be a reverse of all the progress ever since the end of the Troubles and the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

"After all, it was in this very city that the civil rights movement was born and it was in this very city that a fundamental change for the people of Northern Ireland came about.  I pay tribute to all those that helped bring that about."

The Labour leader again ruled out Britain becoming a member of the European Economic Area after Brexit but pledged that the UK would stay in the Customs Unions and stay aligned to the Single Market.

"We want a British deal that gives us access with a commitment that we will not seek to undercut or lower rights or regulations." he said.

"And in return, we will be asking the EU to guarantee that our plans to invest in infrastructure and services would be compatible with its future direction.

"We will be seeking a customs union with the EU in order to make sure there are no regulatory barriers to trade between the UK and the EU and access to the Single Market.

"This is an agreement we would negotiate with the EU and we believe it to be possible."

Calling on local politicians to get Stormont up and running again as soon as possible, Mr Corbyn said it was unthinkable with Brexit causing so much turmoil nationally, that Northern Ireland currently had no voice.

"It seems to me unconscionable that you have civil servants making decisions which would then be challenged by the courts and elected politicians having no say in it whatsoever," he said.

"Those of us who have been in Parliament during periods of direct rule do not want to return to that.

"I want to see a devolved government return to Northern Ireland and I use this platform again today to urge all the parties to come together, to reach an agreement and to reestablish the Assembly as quickly as possible and the administration that goes with it."

Welcoming Mr Corbyn Chamber president Jennifer McKeever said for local business, any kind of border would present huge problems.

“The EU is not a foreign, far-away bureaucracy – it’s a couple of miles from where we sit. It’s where many of our staff live and where we find our customers and trading partners," she said.

“Everybody accepts that it would be unacceptable to re-introduce a hard border in Ireland. What is infinitely more difficult to understand is how we can pull out of the Customs Union and Single Market without one.

“The truth is we just cannot see how you can square this circle: To both leave the EU and to ensure no border - to create the unique solution for Northern Ireland and to do it without damaging our peace and prosperity."

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