Belfast Telegraph

May risking peace in Northern Ireland by refusing to take threat of no-deal off table: Labour

Views on second Brexit referendum
Views on second Brexit referendum
Fears: Tony Lloyd

By Suzanne Breen, Political Editor

The Shadow Secretary of State has said Theresa May will be playing "fast and loose" with the peace process if she doesn't take a no-deal Brexit off the table.

Tony Lloyd told the Belfast Telegraph a hard Brexit "would be devastating for Northern Ireland's economy and would result in a hard border".

He said Labour was asking for the Prime Minister to think again over the issue.

"If the Prime Minister refuses to do so she will be playing fast and loose with the peace process," he said

"Theresa May has to prove that we aren't going back to her deal or no-deal - blackmail and stubbornness have to be taken off the agenda along with no-deal.

"Labour has consistently called for the Government to commit to a permanent UK-wide customs union and new single market relationship."

He was speaking yesterday as his party leader blasted as a "stunt" Mrs May's offer of cross-party talks over the stalemate at Westminster.

Jeremy Corbyn was applauded by Labour supporters for saying that a second referendum was still an option.

In front of a crowd of around 200 activists in Hastings, he said the Prime Minister had made no "serious attempt to engage with the new reality that is needed" to get a withdrawal agreement through Parliament. In a direct message to Mrs May, he said: "Take no-deal off the table now please, Prime Minister."

Mr Corbyn reiterated Labour's preference for a general election and a Brexit deal on its terms, including a permanent customs union, close links to the single market and protections for workers and the environment.

But, to applause from the floor, he added: "If the Government remains intransigent, if support for Labour's alternative is blocked for party advantage and the country is facing the potential disaster of no-deal, our duty will then be to look at other options which we set out in our confidence motion, including that of a public vote." However, taking questions after his speech, he left open the question of which side Labour would campaign on in a public vote.

"If a second referendum should take place, then obviously the party will decide what role we will play in that and what our view would be," he said.

Mr Corbyn is now the only Westminster party leader who has not had discussions with Mrs May, after she held out an olive branch in the Commons on Wednesday.

He claimed the offer of talks with party leaders was "simply a stunt, not the serious attempt to engage with the new reality that is needed".

Mr Corbyn added: "I say to the Prime Minister again: I am quite happy to talk but the starting point for any talks about Brexit must be that the threat of a disastrous no-deal outcome is ruled out, taken off the table, and we can talk about the future of the plans that we will put forward and the future relationship with Europe."

He has urged his MPs not to "engage" with the Government over a Brexit deal after at least three prominent backbenchers took up an offer of talks with ministers.

The Labour leader sent a letter to members of the parliamentary party after Hilary Benn, Yvette Cooper and John Mann all visited the Cabinet Office in Whitehall yesterday.

A backbench Labour critic of Mr Corbyn, East London MP Mike Gapes, tweeted: "Apparently Corbyn is prepared to hold talks with Hamas, Hezbollah, Assad and Iran without preconditions. But not with the UK Prime Minister. Why?"

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