Border poll question heightened by Brexit, Shadow Chancellor tells Belfast festival

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP speaking at St Mary's University College in west Belfast. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

A BORDER poll could be held as a result of ongoing disputes over Brexit, the Shadow Chancellor told a debate in west Belfast last night.

Labour MP John McDonnell said the possibility of a poll needs to be debated, including within his own party, because Brexit has changed wider political discussions.

“The climate is changing," he told a packed audience at the Féile an Phobail James Connolly lecture in St Mary's University College.

"It has changed with developments across the island of Ireland. The issue around a border poll has got to be addressed at some stage."

He said only people in Ireland can make a decision about their constitutional future.

"Nothing about Ireland without the Irish making the decision," he said.

The veteran politician began his speech by declaring his support for the 120 Harland and Wolff workers whose jobs are under threat.

Mr McDonnell said he met workers from the shipyard yesterday afternoon after administrators were appointed to the business.

He challenged prime minister Boris Johnson to nationalise the iconic yard and said the workers' skills were "in demand".

"You have the next 24/48 hours to behave like a prime minister and intervene. Nationalise the yard," he said.

Mr McDonnell joked that his opponents would criticise his attendance at the festival but added "I am proud to be here."

He hit out at the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, saying it would hurt the economy and undermine people's living standards.

He reiterated Labour's call for a second referendum on the UK's exit from the European Union.

"In any new referendum I will be campaigning for remain because I think that's the best option," he said.

He added: "Everything we've got to do now is prevent a no-deal Brexit."

"The best future that I can argue for at the moment is remain," he said.

Mr McDonnell praised the enduring political influence of James Connolly - one of the leaders of the Easter Rising.

"The change that Connolly wanted is what we seek to bring about," he said.

"He was furious about the poverty of our class, about the waste of life and about how the working class were held back."

Mr McDonnell said Labour wants to re-nationalise services including water and Royal Mail.

"We've had enough of being ripped off by these privateers and profiteers," he said.

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