Sir Keir Starmer has confirmed that Labor will support the government at Westminster if it secures an agreement with the EU on reform of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The party leader used a speech at Queen’s University in Belfast to say Labor will offer “political cover” to Rishi Sunak providing the PM went against the Brexiteer “cult” in the ERG.
He said: “I say to the Prime Minister, if there is a deal to do in coming weeks – do it.
“Whatever political cover you need, whatever mechanisms in Westminster you require, if it delivers for our national interest and the people of Northern Ireland – we will support you.
“The time for action on the protocol is now. The time to stand up to the ERG is now.
“The time to put Northern Ireland above a Brexit purity cultwhich can never be satisfied – is now.”
He added that there were ways to remove the majority of border checks that would deliver for communities and businesses across Northern Ireland providing “leadership” came from the prime minister.
The protocol has overshadowed politics in Northern Ireland since it was agreed by then-prime minister Boris Johnson as part of the Brexit deal in a bid to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Members of the unionist community are unhappy with the difficulties it creates for trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refusing to co-operate with forming a devolved executive in Stormont until the issues are resolved.
Aside from the Protocol, Keir Starmer stated how proud he was of the Good Friday peace agreement numerous times and said it was the “greatest achievement of the Labor Party in [his] lifetime, without question.”
However, Brexit was his main concern.
He said: “Brexit was a rupture in the UK’s diplomatic stance, a call for change, in every area of our society, which had to be recognized.”
Sir Keir was a prominent Remainer in 2016 but surrendered his position recently, saying there was “no case” to rejoin the EU’s single market.
“What I do think we need to do is move beyond what I think is a pretty inadequate deal… and make Brexit work. And that is my priority,” he said on Thursday.