Northern Ireland news

More than 80 senior Labour figures sign statement urging Jeremy Corbyn to remain 'part of the European economic area'

Lord Mandelson, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, is among the senior Labour figures to have signed the statement
John Monaghan

MORE than 80 senior figures in the Labour Party, including former Northern Ireland Secretary Lord Mandelson, have called on Jeremy Corbyn to keep the UK in the existing European economic area.

The statement outlines that as "a minimum" Labour "must clearly and unambiguously set as a negotiating objective the goal of remaining part of the European economic area".

Although welcoming Mr Corbyn's policy shift, they indicate it does not go far enough.

"Our commitment to social justice dictates that we should also seek to participate in – not simply have "access" to – the EU's single market. Why? Because the single market is more than a free trade zone between EU countries," the letter to The Observer states.

"Above all, the prospect of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland poses a threat to the Good Friday Agreement. Helping to bring it about was one of our party's greatest achievements.

"Colum Eastwood, the leader of our sister party the SDLP....put it well when he said 'we shouldn't play games with the peace process or with our economy', leaving no room for fudge or ambiguity. This is a view re-iterated by the Irish government."

Meanwhile, cabinet office minister David Lidington has warned that Brexit should be not used as an "excuse" to break up the UK.

Mr Lidington, who served as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary for four years, said the UK is "at a crossroads in our history".

"Leaving the EU presents many challenges for our centuries-old union story - and opportunities too. Some want to use it as an excuse to loosen these ties that bind us together - even sever them completely," he said.

"Such an outcome would leave every one of our four nations both weaker and poorer."

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