Corbyn decision on Customs Union welcome

Issued 26 February 2018

Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has welcomed the announcement today by Jeremy Corbyn, that the UK Labour Party would seek a permanent Customs Union with the EU, and called again for Sinn Féin MPs to consider voting in Westminster on the critical amendment when the time comes.

Deputy Howlin said:

"The move today by UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has opened the prospect of a soft Brexit, and provided the first tangible vision of how a hard border can be avoided on the island of Ireland.

"I welcome this decision, and have discussed it over many months with my colleagues in UK Labour. It has been my longstanding view that only continued membership of the customs union and the single market will avoid a hard border and damage to Ireland that has been highlighted in recent studies.

"By taking this position, it makes it highly likely that Westminster will pass an amendment to the Brexit trade and customs bill, calling on the UK to remain in a customs union with the EU.

"However, we can't take that vote for granted, and the prospect of a major defeat for the Conservative government will likely lead to fewer Tory MPs crossing the divide.

"The six potential votes of Sinn Féin MPs could be critical to the success of that amendment, and as I said yesterday, the Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald is faced with a difficult and historic decision. To allow this critical vote to take place without Ireland’s voice being heard would be an abdication of political responsibility.

"A vote for a customs union is a vote not just for the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement but would also protect the economic interests of the entire island of Ireland.

"I understand the significance of the principle of historical absenteeism not just to Sinn Fein but to all parties on this island but I know too that previous generations of republicans have supported parliamentary action in the House of Commons when they believed it to be in the interest.

"Sinn Féin have an opportunity to assist this process. While it I understand it is difficult, it is an opportunity that cannot be missed. The people of Ireland, north and south, have been denied a voice in this critical debate for too long."

"Therefore, it is imperative that every opportunity is taken to maximise the opportunity of these amendments succeeding."