Derry MP, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood raises Brexit, NI Protocol and legacy with Labour Leader Keir Starmer

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood has discussed the NI Protocol and legacy issues during a meeting with Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer and Shadow Secretary of State Louise Haigh MP at Stormont.

By Brendan McDaid
Friday, 9th July 2021, 11:45 am

The Foyle MP said they had a “good discussion about addressing the legacy of the past, the impact of Brexit and the need for all parties to work together”.

The meeting was one a series of engagements Mr Starmer and Ms Haigh have held with political leaders in a two day visit to Derry and Belfast.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Eastwood said: “It’s very good to have Keir here visiting Northern Ireland and listening to the political parties and people from across the community as to what the real issues are on the ground.

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Labour leader Keir Starmer meeting with SDLP Leader, Foyle MP Colum Eastwood at Stormont.

“We obviously talked about legacy and the British government’s attempt in our view to rip up the Stormont House Agreement”, he added, while referring to the Conservative party’s manifesto pledge to ‘introduce new legislation to tackle the vexatious legal claims that undermine our Armed Forces’ which the SDLP Leader said was tantamount to an “amnesty” and would harm victims’ and relatives’ quest for truth and justice.

“That cannot be allowed to stand. We must resist it at every turn. Actually this British government might find it more difficult than they think to get an amnesty passed through Westminster,” Mr Eastwood said.

The need for a Swiss style agreement between the UK government and the EU to resolve the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol was also discussed.

“The bottom line that Boris Johnson has to get his head around, and which has been the issue since the Referendum since 2016, is you can’t have a hard Brexiteer type Brexit and also avoid checks in the Irish sea. That is just not possible. So Boris needs to decide: Is he prepared to reduce checks way down by doing that agreement with the EU, or does he want to continue to do trade deals with countries and bring dodgy beef into Britain and reduce animal and meats and food standards across the board? That’s the choice. He can’t pretend he doesn’t understand what was in the Protocol that he negotiated, that he signed, that Lord Frost negotiated. They now have to face the reality.”

Keir Starmer held meetings in Belfast with the leaderships of all five main parties in the Northern Ireland Executive.

During his visit to the north on Thursday and Friday Mr Starmer is meeting with senior police officers from the PSNI, prominent peace campaigners, victims and survivors of the Troubles, and young people at an integrated school.

On the visit, Starmer will renew Labour’s commitment to safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement and warn that Boris Johnson’s current approach risks stability in Northern Ireland.

Speaking ahead of meetings at Stormont with all party leaders in the Northern Ireland Executive, Keir Starmer said: “The Good Friday Agreement and its promise of peace must never be taken for granted. Returning to Northern Ireland today, I can see how much is still at stake.

“The peace here was built on the trust, courage and commitment of the communities of Northern Ireland and political leaders. I felt that while working here in the years after Good Friday. And it is with those values in mind that I will go into today’s important meetings.

“This morning, I saw the transformation that peace helped bring about at an integrated school in Belfast. I saw the smiles of hope from young people as they look to the future. Whether we are in Westminster or Stormont, as political leaders we owe it to that generation to deliver on the promise of the Good Friday Agreement.

“We must recognise that trust is fragile, and progress is stalling. I understand the concerns of communities and businesses here about the problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol. I’m here to listen and to call for serious, practical solutions.”