The Conservatives are overlooking Northern Ireland in both the coronavirus response and with Brexit, Labour’s Keir Starmer has said.
Writing for the Belfast Telegraph, Starmer and shadow secretary of state Louise Haigh have claimed that the UK government has failed to grasp the challenges facing Northern Ireland during the coronavirus crisis.
He said: ‘As we move out of this crisis, rejuvenating Northern Ireland’s economy will warrant particular attention if the full promise of peace is to be realised,’ they write.
‘Northern Ireland shouldn’t be overlooked in Westminster – something Labour recognised in office but which the Conservatives have failed to grasp time and again.’
And the pair pointed to the Brexit negotiations as an example of how it was being overlooked.
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They explained: ‘Businesses are crying out for detail on what the new arrangements will look like and are desperate to make it work.
‘But with 27 weeks until the border changes come into force, very little is known.
‘A lack of detail and engagement from senior ministers is not wise at any time, but in the middle of an economic crisis it is irresponsible. Northern Ireland must not be an afterthought.
‘It’s time ministers come clean about the scale of the checks they spent so long denying would ever be implemented at all.’
Starmer and Haigh added that for the sake of peace, politicians need to listen to Northern Irish communities and to demonstrate a process towards prosperity.
They said: ‘Too often in recent years ministers have let communities here down. With trust fragile and huge challenges facing Northern Ireland, the value of an honest broker and partner is needed now more than ever.
‘As Mo Mowlam said, ‘It’s the real life of people that needs changing.’
‘The future that communities here deserve must emerge out of this crisis.
‘The lives of ordinary people must – again – be permanently changed for the better.’