Keir Starmer has urged the EU and UK to “go the extra mile” to reach an agreement on post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.
Speaking at an event for Northern Irish companies in London on Wednesday, the Labor Party leader said Northern Ireland was a “global player making its mark on the world stage”.
While taking the opportunity to praise business in the region, he also addressed the ongoing political crisis in Northern Ireland.
The DUP is currently blocking the re-establishment of power-sharing institutions in Stormont in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol, which created economic barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Earlier this week, in a highly controversial move, Secretary of State Liz Truss announced her intention to enact legislation to override parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
The announcement sparked fury in European capitals and raised specters of a possible trade war with the EU.
It was warmly welcomed by the DUP.
Mr. Starmer told the audience, “In the face of today’s well-known challenges, companies have told me that clarity and certainty are what are needed above all else.
“That does not surprise me.
“Politicians must therefore find a way forward, both at Stormont and in the government’s negotiations with the EU. We must find pragmatic ways forward, not restate the problem, but find ways to move forward.
“And in that endeavour, we all have a role to play and a duty to the people and businesses of Northern Ireland.”
He stressed the importance of “trust” and also called on the EU to show flexibility in the negotiations.
“The protocol is an agreement that the Prime Minister himself negotiated, ratified and signed with the EU.
“Now he has to make it work.
“Britain must be a country that keeps its word. It reflects who we are – a nation that stands for the rule of law.
“And the EU must also show flexibility – I have no doubt about that.
“Now is not a time for rhetoric or bickering, it is a time for the UK and EU to negotiate practical solutions.”
He told Business that his party supports a veterinary deal to reduce the need for controls between Britain and Northern Ireland.
“Both the Government and the EU need to go further and listen to the experiences of Northern Ireland’s economy.
“You know what can and can’t work, it’s your creativity and your flexibility that can deliver the solutions.
“That’s why it’s important for business representatives to sit around the same table.”
Mr Starmer also hailed US efforts to intervene in the dispute amid indications a US delegation will be flying to London for a series of meetings on the protocol.
“The United States is a friend to all of us, and it plays a vital role in ensuring peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland, as it has for decades.”
Colin Neill of Hospital Ulster, Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI and Glyn Roberts of Retail NI said they hoped the London event would be a “wake-up call” that the region was open to new business.
“The past two years have been monumental for the business community as we battled the pandemic, changes due to protocol and another executive collapse,” they said in a joint statement.
Deputy Minister for the Northern Ireland Office, Conor Burns, said in a statement: “I am delighted to sponsor this event at the Houses of Parliament, which brings together businesses, local authorities and key sectors from across Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland has so much to offer the rest of the world and the UK Government is committed to supporting this economic development and highlighting its potential as a fantastic place to live, work and do business.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/prime-minister-conor-burns-dup-london-stormont-b2082234.html The UK and EU need to go “the extra mile” on the protocol suite, Starmer tells NI companies