DUP accuses Jeremy Corbyn of 'betraying voters' while Sinn Fein welcomes customs union pledge
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) should not be "sacrificed" on the altar of Brexit.
During a speech in Coventry on Monday morning the Labour leader outlined a policy shift which sees his party back the UK being in a permanent customs union with the EU following Brexit.
Mr Corbyn also pledged that a Labour government would not allow the return of a hard border in Ireland.
"No playing off the nations of the UK," he said. "No one should be willing to sacrifice the GFA, the basis of relative peace, development and respect for diversity in Northern Ireland.
"The GFA was a huge achievement and on this anniversary lets respect that and not allow that to be undermined during the Brexit process.”
He added: "The devolution of the last Labour government completed the peace process in Northern Ireland, which we must cherish. The GFA was a great achievement and I pay tribute to the work done by Tony Blair, Mo Mowlam and all sides in Northern Ireland to secure that agreement.
"We must continue to support the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly and to ensure we maintain the situation of no hard border in Northern Ireland."
Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted the UK will leave the single market and the customs union, allowing Britain to negotiate its own trade deals with countries around the world.
However, Mr Corbyn today committed Labour to keep the UK in a European customs union and argued the move will enable Labour to secure "full tariff-free access" to the single market but without committing to all of its rules.
The Labour leader said: “Labour would seek a final deal that gives full access to European markets and maintains the benefits of the single market and the customs union as the Brexit Secretary, David Davis promised in the House of Commons, with no new impediments to trade and no reduction in rights, standards and protections.
“We have long argued that a customs union is a viable option for the final deal.
"So Labour would seek to negotiate a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union to ensure that there are no tariffs with Europe and to help avoid any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland."
Corbyn’s Brexit plan would leave U.K. a colony of the EU - unable to take back control of our borders or our trade policy. White flag from labour before talks even begin.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 26, 2018
DUP MP Sammy Wilson accused Mr Corbyn of "betraying" Labour voters.
He said: “It is clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s speech today is driven by cheap political opportunism, completely overturns previous promises made by the Labour Party during the last General Election that it was opposed to membership of the customs union and is a blatant attempt to bring down the government rather than safeguard the interests of the UK or workers in industries across the United Kingdom who would benefit from the United Kingdom’s freedom to make its own trade deals outside a customs union. "
The east Antrim MP added: "The DUP, as we have done already, will be giving our full support to the government to oppose this Brexit wrecking policy which regardless of the promises made by Corbyn will result in the UK still being tied to regulations, directives and diktats from the EU."
David Cullinane TD, Sinn Fein spokesman for Brexit, welcomed Jeremy Corbyn's statement.
He said: "This is a welcome dose of reality to the debate after months of disarray and dithering from the Tories. Corbyn said that nobody should be willing to sacrifice the Good Friday Agreement. He rightly said it was a huge achievement and one that needed to be protected.
"Britain remaining in a form of customs union and single market with the EU will weaken the possibility of a hard border on the island of Ireland post-Brexit. It is a positive and welcome statement.
"The only way to ensure there is no border checks on the island is for the north to stay in the full customs union, the single market and the EU legal framework. Whatever this is called is immaterial - the need for it to happen is not."
Belfast Telegraph Digital