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4 September 2017 Edition

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Tick, tock – Time for Tories to get real

British Labour Party shifts stance on Brexit

THE reported ‘dramatic policy shift’ by the British Labour Party aiming to continue Britain’s membership of the EU Single Market and the Customs Union while still leaving the political union after Brexit has been described by Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane TD as “a sensible move”.

Chris Hazzard, Sinn Féin’s Westminster Brexit spokesperson, said:

“We will be in contact with the British Labour Party on their proposals and I will be meeting with them and other parties at Westminster in the coming weeks.”

The MP for South Down added, however, that remaining in the Customs Union and Single Market will only deal with some of the negative impacts of Brexit. 

What is required to give effect to the ‘Remain’ vote of the people of the Six Counties is for the North to be granted ‘Designated Special Status Within the EU’, Chris Hazzard repeated.

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• Chris Hazzard MP, Sinn Féin’s Westminster Brexit spokesperson: 'We'll be meeting Labour in London'

Sinn Féin Dáil Brexit spokesperson David Cullinane TD told An Phoblacht:

“It’s time for British Prime Minister Theresa May and the Tories to get real about the Brexit negotiations. They need to put solutions and substance on the table as time is moving on. Tick, tock.”

The Waterford deputy said the difficulties are compounded by the fact that the EU is not simply negotiating with a British Government. 

“They are negotiating with two wings of the Tory Party. And therein lies the problem.”

Speculation about the modified British Labour Party position came after an article by Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer MP, in the Guardian newspaper.

“We need a transitional Brexit deal that provides maximum certainty and stability,” Keir Starmer said. “Labour will deliver it. If we are to deliver a deal that protects jobs and the economy, we must be clear about the hard choices that need to be made.

“Labour has repeatedly emphasised that, in order to avoid a cliff edge for our economy, there will need to be a time-limited transitional period between our exit from the EU and the new lasting relationship we build with our European partners. This is a view shared widely by businesses and trade unions, who recognise the huge damage that an abrupt separation from the EU would cause to our economy.”

Criticising the “constructive ambiguity” of Theresa May’s Tories that has caused so much confusion and concern, Keir Starmer said that the Labour Party is offering “a credible solution” to one of the most important issues facing Britain’s exit from the EU.

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• Sinn Féin Dáil Brexit spokesperson David Cullinane TD: 'Tories need to put solutions on the table'

He explained:

“Labour would seek a transitional deal that maintains the same basic terms that we currently enjoy with the EU. That means we would seek to remain in a Customs Union with the EU and within the Single Market during this period. It means we would abide by the common rules of both.”

He said that by remaining inside the Customs Union and the Single Market in a transitional phase, goods and services could continue to flow between the EU and Britain and the North of Ireland “without tariffs, customs checks or additional red tape”.

The British Labour Party’s new position was also welcomed by the 26-County Labour Party and Fianna Fáil.

‘Put British rhetoric to the test’

David Cullinane said that the Irish Government and the EU must “put British Government rhetoric to the test” after it released a series of “contradictory” position papers on Brexit. 

“These claim to want to retain the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and maintain free trade and movement of people between Ireland and Britain. At the same time, they are pulling out of the Single Market, the Customs Union and the European Court of Justice.

“If the British Government are serious about safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement and maintaining progress, they must make clear how this will be achieved and clarify their future membership of the Customs Union.

“It is acknowledged that Brexit is without precedent and there is agreement that the Good Friday Agreement must be protected. The solution must be to provide for the North to have ‘Special Status Within the EU’.”

Good Friday Agreement

The British Government has failed to give a long-term commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights, access to the EU Court of Human rights or how North/South co-operation would work in their vision of Brexit, David Cullinane said.

“All of these are central to the Good Friday Agreement and our economies and jobs, North and South.”

Recognition of these “inconsistencies” is reflected in the changing position of the British Labour Party, the Sinn Féin Dáil Brexit spokesperson said, adding:

“The EU and the Irish Government must now put the British Government rhetoric to the test.”

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