Call for Labour to back post-Brexit MEPs for Northern Ireland
A BELFAST-based US businessman and a lawyer turned academic have urged Jeremy Corbyn to back efforts to secure post-Brexit representation for Northern Ireland in the European Parliament.
Venture capitalist Frank Costello and Ciaran White, a senior law lecturer at Ulster University, say the Labour leader urgently needs to join the campaign for two new MEPs' seats for the north in the Brussels and Strasbourg parliaments.
The next EU elections are scheduled to take place next May after the UK cuts ties with Brussels, leaving the north's three current MEPs redundant.
In June, the European Council increased the Republic's allocation of MEPs from 11 to 13 as part of the redistribution of the UK's 27 surplus seats. The additional seats have yet to allocated to a constituency and many believe they should provide continued representation for Northern Ireland after Brexit.
Messrs Costello and White have written to Mr Corbyn, as well as south Armagh-born MP Conor McGinn and shadow Brexit secretary Kier Starmer, urging them to lend Labour's support to the campaign for continued MEP representation.
The letter calls on Mr Corbyn to "convey directly" to European Council president Donald Tusk and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier his party's backing for the preservation of elected representation in the European Parliament.
"As we stress in the letters, these seats must be preserved to protect the democratic rights of all EU nationals within Northern Ireland, since it voted by a significant margin in favour of remaining within the EU," Mr Costello told The Irish News.
"It's vital to protect the European dimension that helps underpin the Good Friday Agreement and the effective expenditure of EU Peace funding over the next several years post-Brexit, as well fighting for the continued protection of the European Court of Justice."
The US businessman said time was running out for Mr Corbyn to "play an historic substantive role" in shaping the post-Brexit landscape in Northern Ireland.