Labour sister party urges Jeremy Corbyn to back single market and customs union membership

Posted On: 
19th February 2018

The leader of Northern Ireland’s SDLP has called on Labour to support the UK staying a full member of the single market and customs union.

SDLP boss Colum Eastwood
Credit: 
PA Images

Colum Eastwood has written directly to Jeremy Corbyn, warning him that a hard Brexit has the “potential to dismantle the architecture” of the peace process in the province.

The centre-left Irish nationalists and sister party to Labour were wiped out at last year’s Westminster election, leaving just DUP and abstentionist Sinn Féin MPs representing Northern Ireland. 

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Labour has seemingly ruled out remaining in the single market but suggested retaining some form of customs union in order to maintain tariff-free trade and keep an open Irish border.

The letter will pile further pressure on Mr Corbyn however, following calls from his own MPs to “get off the fence” earlier this month and fully commit to staying in both.

Mr Eastwood said Labour should protect its “legacy” in Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement, adding that the party must “do the right thing, not simply what it perceives to be the popular thing”.

“Full single market and customs union access is necessary to avoid the establishment a new economic border in Ireland,” the MLA wrote.

“Border checks are the last thing our people desire and will only be prevented if we retain full access and full alignment with the European single market and customs union. 

“Labour invested a huge amount of effort and time in helping to secure the peace process through the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Brexit now threatens all that was achieved in that historic Anglo-Irish accommodation.

“Those institutions are currently experiencing severe strain - the imposition of a hard Brexit carries with it the potential to dismantle the architecture of our peace process."