Brexit: No border in Irish Sea – Jeremy Corbyn

Posted By: September 21, 2018

Stephen Walker,  BBC News NI,  Political Correspondent.  20 September 2018

Media captionJeremy Corbyn has rejected the latest Brexit backstop proposals from the chief negotiator put forward for NI.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has rejected the latest Brexit backstop proposals from the chief negotiator put forward for Northern Ireland.

Michel Barnier has proposed that goods could be checked in Britain before arriving in Northern Ireland.

The EU has proposed a backstop that would mean Northern Ireland staying in the customs union, large parts of the single market and the EU VAT system.
Mr. Barnier has emphasized that it can only apply to Northern Ireland.

Speaking to BBC News NI, Mr. Corbyn rejected the idea.

He said: “I think there could be problems with this.

“We are looking closely, obviously, at his proposals but they have got to be seen in the totality of the negotiations the UK government has with the EU so far.

 “It is not looking good because you have got a very large element of the Conservative Party who are always looking over their shoulders and want to do trade arrangement with the United States at the expense of the more important trade that goes on with Europe.”

The Labour leader has also criticised any plan that would lead to a border in the Irish Sea.

He said: “I think that would be very difficult because in reality that would push the border from one place to another.

 “There has to be that movement of goods and services.”

Mr. Corbyn’s comments came as negotiations between the EU and UK are continuing in advance of Brexit in March 2019.

The Labour leader also talked about the lack of devolution in Northern Ireland.

 Questioned on the political impasse at Stormont, Mr. Corbyn said it was “simply not credible to carry on so long without any devolved government.”

 The Leader of the Opposition said he was concerned about the fact that civil servants in Belfast were now taking decisions once made by Executive Ministers.

He said: “It is now 600 days without an administration in Northern Ireland.

“Six hundred days without no political oversight of a lot of work that is being done by civil servants. Now I am not criticising the work that is being done, just as a matter of principle in a democracy there should be political oversight of what public officials are doing.”

So what are his ideas to try to break the political log jam?

Mr. Corbyn said if he were prime minister he would immediately meet the local parties and the Irish government. He also did not rule out outside help, adding: “If I thought there was a case for an independent mediator, I would obviously do that, do anything.”

He also urged the Stormont parties to get back into discussions aimed at restoring devolution. He said: “I think politically they are all grown-ups. They have got to get around the table and agree on coming back and having an administration at Stormont.”
He said: “I would want us to ensure that the Northern Ireland Assembly is restored so it could legislate for a Language Act but could also legislate on equal marriage.”

Mr. Corbyn urged the Conservative government not to impose direct rule on Northern Ireland.

 He has been criticised in the past by unionist politicians for comments about Northern Ireland and his close associations with Sinn Féin.

He was described by DUP leader Arlene Foster as “beyond the pale.”

Asked if he needed to have a charm offensive with the DUP, Mr. Corbyn said: “I am happy to talk to anybody, and I hope all those groups that may have differences with me also come and talk. The only way is to talk to each other.”

 An internal party report was expected regarding the issue of whether the party should contest elections in Northern Ireland.

For decades a number of activists have campaigned for official Labour candidates in Northern Ireland, but the move has been resisted.

This year, the party interviewed a range of activists and elected officials about the issue and canvassed a wide range of opinions.

 Mr. Corbyn has confirmed that the final report has been delayed.

He also said that if their sister party the SDLP formed a political alliance with Fianna Fáil in the future it “would change” Labour’s relationship with the SDLP.