UK Labor leader says united Ireland ‘not in sight’


British Labor leader Keir Starmer ruled out the prospect of a united Ireland in the foreseeable future, saying such an eventuality was “not in sight”.

During a visit to the North, Mr Starmer also warned that Anglo-Irish relations were at an “all-time low”, denounced a proposed amnesty for the Troubles Era murders as “bad” and called for practical solutions to make the Northern Ireland Protocol work.

Mr Starmer called on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intervene directly to ‘defuse the unrest’ over the next few days as tensions covered over the post-Brexit arrangements at the height of loyalist march season.

Speaking to the Irish Times in Derry at the end of his three-day trip, Mr Starmer disagreed with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s recent remarks that he could see Ireland reunified in his lifetime.

“Obviously, there is more talk now about a border poll than a few years ago,” Starmer said.

“I think it’s not in sight, frankly, and the obvious priority at the moment, especially as the pandemic is exiting, is the economy, health and education and longer-term issues.

“These are very important priorities and I think a border survey is not in sight. It is not in sight as far as I am concerned.

During his visit, the Labor leader met leaders of the five political parties in the Stormont executive and dined Thursday evening at the Walled City Brewery in Derry with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

“Loss of trustworthy”

It is a “striking feature” of his discussions that there has been a “loss of confidence” in the British government over the ongoing negotiations between London and Brussels regarding the implementation of the protocol, he said. declared.

“The prime minister negotiated the protocol, he knew what he was doing,” Starmer said. “He sold it badly and now he doesn’t take responsibility for making it work.”

An EU-UK deal on veterinary standards to reduce checks on goods moving between Britain and the North would be a “good place to start” in trying to make the protocol work, he added. .

“I am concerned from the discussions I have had over the past three days that progress appears to be stalling,” he said.

“This is in large part due to the loss of confidence in the Prime Minister as an honest broker in this area.”

Referring to remarks by Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney that London has shown no “generosity” in the talks to break the deadlock, Mr Starmer suggested there was a “lack of confidence “by Mr Johnson in Dublin and Brussels.

“When at all levels that trust and confidence is burning, you have a real problem for the UK on the international stage,” he said.

“Frankly, if you launch discussions and your approach threatening to violate international law, you are sending the partners the totally wrong message about how you are going to apply the protocol or part of your international obligations. “

Regarding Anglo-Irish relations, he said he feared they were at an all-time low.

“This is a close partnership with a very important country, as far as the UK is concerned, with a shared history and future, but I fear they are at an all time high and the responsibility is shifting. located at the door of number 10 (Downing Street). “

Mr. Starmer also met with representatives of Wave, the largest cross-community organization in the North supporting victims of the unrest.

‘Basically wrong’

Last week, the organization warned Mr Johnson that a general amnesty for conflict-related prosecutions would be “fundamentally flawed” and aggravate the anguish and bitterness suffered by survivors.

“It is very clear that their pain and suffering continues,” Mr Starmer said of the victims. “He lives with them, with their children, with their brothers and sisters and with those who have themselves been injured.

“The idea that someone could sit down in Westminster and talk about drawing a line on his pain without even engaging with him about how we find a way forward is something he finds deeply disrespectful.

“I firmly believe that if we are to find a way forward, the starting point for the Prime Minister and Secretary of State (for Northern Ireland) is to have discussions with those most affected and c Ie those who are the victims or the families of the victims of the violence of the Troubles.

“This is where the discussion begins, it does not start in Westminster with overt commitment.”

Mr Starmer, former Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, said: “I strongly believe in the rule of law”.

“Therefore, I think a general amnesty is bad and I detect no support for it in Northern Ireland,” he added.

On loyalist tensions over the protocol, Mr Starmer said he was concerned about “what appears to be a fairly fragile situation at the moment, particularly at the start of what is very often a difficult week in Northern Ireland” .

“All political leaders, including the prime minister, should do what they can to defuse the unrest in the coming days,” he said.

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