Corbyn warns any kind of border would damage economy

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with Ulster University professor Deirdre Heenan (centre) and Shadow Secretary of State Tony Lloyd (right) walk over the cross-border Lifford Bridge. Photograph by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

JEREMY Corbyn said yesterday that "any kind of border" would cause economic damage as he walked across a bridge between Counties Tyrone and Donegal.

The Labour leader had heard about Brexit concerns from business representatives in Derry before travelling to Strabane to make the crossing to Lifford, taking selfies with passers-by.

He said the cross-border bridge was a symbol of the openness of the Good Friday Agreement.

“We don't want to see a return to the Troubles; we don't want to see a descent away from the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

"The whole purpose of our visit is to encourage the parties in Stormont to come together and re-establish a functioning executive and assembly.”

At a breakfast meeting with business leaders, beginning the second day of a two-day visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Corbyn was told Derry was the “city at the heart of the Brexit conundrum”.

The chamber of commerce event witnessed a strong show of support for the UK remaining in the single market and customs union.

Mr Corbyn appealed to Stormont leaders to re-establish the Executive to give the north a voice at the Brexit talks table.

“It is impossible to go through a period so crucial as Brexit negotiations without a voice for Northern Ireland being made at the table by the political classes in Northern Ireland," he said.

"I hope they understand that message and I hope that we can make very rapid progress on that.

"There is to be a transition period but the transition period is not unlimited, that we well know, and crucial decisions are going to be made in the next three months and I understand very clearly the message that you have given me here this morning."

Mr Corbyn has said he is opposed to a hard border in Ireland after Brexit and is keen that a new customs arrangement is established between the UK and EU.

The British government is examining whether a customs partnership or a technological solution to border checks can be made to work.

He claimed the government was making a mess of the negotiations and was too divided and weak to get a good Brexit deal.

“Any kind of border, physical border, virtual reality border, technological border, whatever, would be very damaging to the economy."

Mr Corbyn also referenced a recent court ruling that a senior civil servant did not have the power to approve a controversial incinerator project in the absence of a minister.

He said it was unconscionable that civil servants were making major decisions which were being challenged through the courts with politicians having no say.

Meanwhile, the Labour leader was criticised by DUP MP Gregory Campbell and Foyle assembly member Gary Middleton for failing to take up their invitation to meet victims of IRA violence.

“On the occasion of his next visit he needs to have a meeting like the one that should have occurred this time, to be top of his agenda next time,” Mr Middleton said.

Mr Corbyn later visited Harland & Wolff shipyard in east Belfast and backed calls for UK shipyards including Belfast to benefit from a £1 billion naval procurement budget.

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