Northern Ireland news

Labour would ‘explore full potential' of UK outside EU's single market

Sir Keir Starmer and Peter Kyle in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)
David Lynch and Patrick Daly, PA Political Staff

The Government has not explored the “full potential” of what the UK can do outside the EU’s single market, Labour has suggested.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle claimed his party would aspire to make more of a success of Brexit.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer meanwhile insisted that leaving the EU did not necessarily mean the UK was destined to be poorer.

Asked whether Brexit had made the UK poorer on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Kyle said: “Actually, the Brexit deal that Boris Johnson negotiated has made us poorer and we need to address that. Keir Starmer has been really clear about this; we need to build on this deal.”

Peter Kyle, Sir Keir Starmer and shadow leader of the House of Lords Baroness Angela Smith at Stormont
Peter Kyle, Sir Keir Starmer and shadow leader of the House of Lords Baroness Angela Smith at Stormont (Liam McBurney/PA

He added: “I think what we could have done is just fully, fully explored our potential outside of the single market and that’s what the Labour Party aspires to do.

“I don’t think we have touched the sides as a country of what is possible outside of the single market.”

Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Sir Keir said the UK economy did not always have to be “smaller” as a result of leaving the European Union.

“So long as we improve upon the deal we’ve got, I don’t accept that,” he said.

He added: “What people desperately want going into the election is to feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that things can get better.

“I would also add this. The economy has not grown significantly for 13 years – that has been an absolute failure of this Government.

“So even before Brexit, we had a failure under this Tory Government with our economy. I’m determined that we will fix that.”

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Sir Keir Starmer appearing on Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

Labour’s claims come as the EU and UK have agreed a real-time data sharing deal on goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Hailed as a positive step, the agreement is aimed at resolving the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Members of the unionist community are unhappy about the difficulties the protocol creates trading between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, with the DUP refusing to co-operate in a devolved executive until their concerns are resolved.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is expected to meet with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic to resume protocol talks on Monday.

Irish MEP Barry Andrews told Times Radio there was an “expectation” that a “political declaration” could emerge out of the meeting.

“Not an internationally binding agreement, but a political declaration and framework for the way forward,” said the Fianna Fail politician.

“We had some positive announcements last week… and generally I think there’s been a build-up of trust between the parties.”

James Cleverly
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly will hold further protocol talks on Monday (Peter Morrison/PA)

With suggestions a protocol deal might be close, Labour’s Mr Kyle claimed UK-EU negotiations had been too slow.

He told Sky: “We’re certainly hearing that negotiations are going better than before, but we can’t keep hearing these briefings. We’ve had 18 months of discussions about mood movement rather than content.”

He added: “The Government published its command paper with all its negotiating stances 18 months ago, the EU did so 15 months ago and there’s a big overlap in the middle.

“It is about data sharing, the difference between whether we have a fast-track or a green lane. We’ve spent 18 months negotiating over something that really should have been dealt with in a matter of weeks, not years.

“It is extraordinary to me that the previous generation, led by Tony Blair, delivered peace in Northern Ireland. This lot can’t get a prawn sandwich over the Irish Sea.

“So we really need to get round the table and negotiate.”

Northern Ireland news