Starmer pressures Sunak to resolve Northern Ireland Protocol issues

Sir Keir Starmer will say that Rishi Sunak will have to oppose the “Brexit cult of purity” of Eurosceptics at Tory tribunals to find a solution to the Northern Ireland Protocol issues.

The Labor leader will use it in a speech in Belfast to urge the Prime Minister to take up the European Research Group (ERG) to address issues with Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade regulations.

Sir Keir will say Mr Sunak will present a “political cover” at Westminster if he makes a deal with the European Union in the national interest.

“The time to act on the protocol is now. Now is the time to oppose the ERG,” Sir Keir will say on Friday.

“The time has come to put Northern Ireland on a Brexit cult of purity that can never be satisfied – now.”

Before the Good Friday Agreement’s 25th anniversary in April, there was a “small window of opportunity” to address the issue.

“We must use the anniversary to straighten minds, to get the country and its political process moving again – to deliver it to the people of Northern Ireland,” he will say.

Peter Kyle, Shadow Foreign Minister for Northern Ireland, from left to right, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer and Baroness Angela Smith, shadow leader of the House of Lords, at the Parliament Buildings in Stormont

Sir Keir Starmer, centre, visited the Houses of Parliament in Stormont on Thursday (Liam McBurney/PA)

Any deal, seen as much of a concession to Brussels, could trigger a riot on the Tory bench, but Sir Keir will offer Labor support to Mr Sunak.

“Whatever political cover you need, whatever mechanism you need at Westminster, if it serves our national interests and the people of Northern Ireland, we will support you,” he said in a speech at Queen’s University.

The Labor leader will call on the Prime Minister to recognize the mistakes made by some Tory ministers, who see the Irish government as the “enemy” on Brexit.

“There is no doubt that it has damaged the political process in Northern Ireland. And certainly not the spirit of 1998.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol was passed by then-prime minister Boris Johnson to avoid a hard border with Ireland, but the DUP refuses to engage with power-sharing agencies until it is significantly changed or abolished.


Sir Keir Starmer met with leaders of Northern Ireland parties on Thursday (Liam McBurney/PA)

Unionists oppose the trade barriers it has created between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The Labor Party has proposed a new veterinary agreement between the UK and the EU that it claims will remove most of the controls for trade in agricultural products, and a credible trade program could also avoid some bureaucracy.

Sir Keir will also use this speech to greet the Good Friday Agreement as “the greatest achievement of the Labor Party in my life, without a doubt”.

“But of course, real achievements – real pride – belong to the people and communities here in Northern Ireland,” he will say.

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