Coaker confirms Labour support for consent at UUP conference

NI constitutional change only with majority agreement, says British Labour spokesman

British Labour spokesman on Northern Ireland Vernon Coaker. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

British Labour spokesman on Northern Ireland Vernon Coaker. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images


The British Labour spokesman on Northern Ireland Vernon Coaker has reaffirmed his party’s support for the Belfast Agreement principle of consent notwithstanding his leader Jeremy Corbyn’s support for a united Ireland.

Mr Coaker attended the Ulster Unionist Party conference in Belfast on Saturday to state that without “ifs” or “buts” that Labour policy was that constitutional change could only happen by the support of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland.

The UUP had asked Mr Coaker to provide such assurances after Mr Corbyn recently repeated that he supported unification. “It’s an aspiration that I have always gone along with,” Mr Corbyn told the News Statesman magazine.

The British Labour shadow chancellor, John McDonnell also felt compelled to recently apologise for in 2003 saying that the IRA should be honoured because it was its “bombs and bullets and sacrifice” that had brought the British government to the negotiating table.

Mr Coaker said on Saturday that Labour was committed to “honouring the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and all of the subsequent agreements”.

“So let me be absolutely clear - I speak for Labour in Northern Ireland, and what I say is our policy, remains our policy and will be our policy,” he asserted.

Mr Coaker said he also believed in maintaining a bipartisan approach with the Tory government in relation to trying to ensure political stability in Northern Ireland.

“And above all, we believe in the principle of consent. There can be no change to the constitutional position of Northern Ireland without the agreement of a majority of people in Northern Ireland,” he said to applause.

“And let me also be clear that the primacy of the rule of law is paramount and that there can never be any justification for terrorism. That is what I have said in the media but more importantly I have said it in the House of Commons consistently ever since I took on this post and will continue to do so,” added Mr Coaker.

“No ifs, not buts, our policy remains the same and let that ring out from here today,” he said.