Brexit time-bomb for Starmer as Labour caught short: ‘Last thing he wants to talk about’

Keir Starmer: Labour will make Brexit work

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Mr Starmer said Labour will oppose Boris Johnson’s new Brexit legislation when it goes before the House of Commons for the first time on Monday, claiming that it would breach international law and he would scrap it if he became Prime Minister. The bill will allow Britain to override elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol in a bid to smooth out some of the post-Brexit trade glitches between Britain and the province. The Government is pushing through the legislation in case the ongoing negotiations with the EU reach an impasse.

Under the Protocol, Brussels has demanded strict customs checks on British goods entering Northern Ireland, due to the territory effectively remaining in the EU’s single market post-Brexit.

However, Northern Irish Unionists have criticised the arrangements, arguing that a de facto trade border has been imposed down the Irish Sea, generating mountains of paperwork and extra costs for businesses.

Mr Starmer’s intervention into the latest Brexit debate comes after the Labour leader had previously been accused of flip-flopping over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The former barrister, who voted to Remain in the EU, later vowed to honour the result of the EU referendum but eventually told Remainers that the Brexit debate “was over”.

According to Dr Nicholas Dickinson, a political expert from the University of Oxford, the UK’s exit from the EU is an incredibly difficult issue for him to talk about.

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Speaking to, he said: “The Labour Party are going to have to talk about whether it is a good thing to compromise with the European Union and be pro-European.

“This is the last thing Starmer wants to talk about.

“Because the two projects of the Starmer leadership really have been to distance the Labour Party from Corbynism and the left.

“But also, significantly, to distance it from the idea that they are a pro-Remain, second referendum party.

“They have been relatively successful in both of those things, but whether they can continue to maintain that…”

Mr Starmer’s comments about Northern Ireland came after he travelled to Stormont and met the SDLP and Alliance parties, who are opposed to the UK dis-applying elements of the Protocol.

Addressing the media during his visit, Mr Starmer said: “We will vote against the legislation the Government is putting before parliament.

“We think it is the wrong approach.

“I’m not pretending there aren’t issues and challenges with the protocol, of course there are.

“We have been listening to the political parties here, to communities, to business groups.

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“I think those challenges can be overcome around the negotiating table with statecraft, with high levels of trust.”

He added: “It is that high level of trust that is missing with this Prime Minister and I think he is making a mistake by going down the route of legislation which will breach international law and, actually, I think, be an impediment to the negotiations that, in the end, are going to resolve these difficult issues.”

Dr Dickinson claimed that the Conservatives have also struggled over the issue of Northern Ireland.

He argued that in recent years, neither the Tories or Labour have got to grips with the “complex” nature of the nation’s politics.

He said: “You have to consider the extremely complex politics of Northern Ireland, as well as the Protocol and the relationship between Ireland and the UK.

“One of the things we have seen over the last few years is how ill-equipped so much of the British political class is to think about Ireland and Northern Ireland in a way that I think their predecessors were not.

“But this was a generation that came up in politics at a time when Northern Ireland was seen as a settled issue.

“So, they do not have that inherent sense of it, or what the sensibilities are.”

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