Yvette Cooper quizzed on Northern Ireland Protocol
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Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary was questioned on how her party would deal with “all those exporters struggling” as a result of the agreement on post-Brexit trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In an interview with Andrew Marr on LBC she was pressed for answers on whether these issues would not exist if the United Kingdom were still part of the European Union.
Ms Cooper repeatedly said “we’re done” and “we’ve left”. According to political commentator Marina Purkiss, resorting to such phrases makes “even decent MPs sound like morons”.
When Mr Marr asked Mr Cooper whether the UK was better off in the single market she answered: “We’re gone. We’ve done that.
“We’ve had Covid and another whole series of things since then.
“We’ve left the single market, we have left the European Union, and that is done.
“So the issue now is, what is the future for Britain in the world, what are the relationships that we want to see for the future, and what are the kinds of things that I think a credible Labour government could deliver that Boris Johnson doesn’t understand a chance of delivering.”
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Ms Purkiss, sharing a clip of the Tonight with Andrew Marr show on Twitter, said: “This pro-Brexit, ‘we’ve left’ bollocks from Labour is making even decent MPs sound like morons…”
The Shadow Home Secretary’s intervention came amid tensions over the Prime Minister’s plans to push ahead with a new law overriding parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which keeps the region in the EU’s single market while creating a customs border with the rest of the UK.
It was designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland when London and Brussels parted ways in 2019.
However, it led to new goods checks at Northern Ireland sea ports on some products from Great Britain – effectively creating a new trade border in the Irish Sea.
Unionist parties, including the DUP, which is refusing to operate Stormont until its concerns are dealt with, oppose it as they say it has led to extra costs and unnecessary delays.
Boris Johnson now wants to water down the Brexit deal so that ministers can simply disapply — without EU agreement — parts of the Protocol and impose alternative solutions instead.
His government claims it “didn’t expect” the bloc to implement the deal so rigorously.
The Prime Minister is aiming for a new system that would create a “red change” with full EU checks and a “green channel” with only minimal checks.
It would see traders decide which channel their goods belong in when moving goods from Britain to Northern Ireland.
Goods staying in Northern Ireland would go in the “green channel”, while goods moving on to the Republic would go in the “red channel”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said on LBC the challenges posed by the NI Protocol can be overcome with flexibility and good faith, but added: “My concern is that we have a Prime Minister who doesn’t have those attributes.”
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Referring to these remarks, Mr Marr asked Ms Cooper: “How would you resolve the Northern Ireland Protocol?”
She replied: “I think it’s, you know … the challenge is to make sure you can pull everybody together, not try and rip up the rules in the way that, again, Boris Johnson is trying to do, but again to pull everyone together in order to be able to do that.”
Ms Cooper did not outline specific solutions.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is said to be keen for the legislation, due to be published on Monday, to get through the Commons before the summer recess.
However, challenges lay ahead for the Government to succeed in its plans, as support is limited.
A number of leading Brexiteers have shared their hesitance with Mr Johnson after a cabinet committee rejected demands from the backbench European Research Group (ERG) to change the bill.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, a Eurosceptic MP, said he would vote against the Government if the legislation did not facilitate the “serious prospect of the restoration of power-sharing in Northern Ireland, and the restoration of the Good Friday agreement”.
In Ireland, meanwhile, Mr Johnson’s counterpart Micheal Martin appealed to London to engage in discussion with Brussels.
He told reporters in Strasbourg on Wednesday: “Unilateral action is not conductive to good relations internationally, and unilateral action to undermine an agreement that people solemnly entered into is not good practice.”
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