Brexit should take priority over Irish unity - Corbyn

Labour leader asserts it is ‘difficult to know’ if UK’s EU exit has brought united Ireland closer

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the media during a visit to Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph: David Young/PA Wire

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the media during a visit to Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph: David Young/PA Wire

 

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said during a visit to Stormont that dealing with the fallout from Brexit should take priority over the issue of Irish unity.

Mr Corbyn, on what is expected to be his last visit to Northern Ireland as Labour leader, met the North’s five main parties at Stormont on Thursday to discuss Brexit and the restoration of the Northern Executive and Assembly.

He said the meetings were “informative and constructive”.

Mr Corbyn told reporters that it was “difficult to know” if Brexit had brought a united Ireland any closer.

He said businesses in the region relied on European trade and they needed to know they have a future. “I think that’s a more important priority than anything else,” he said.

“Clearly the issue that is important at the moment is one of dealing with the immediacy of funding and trading arrangements,” he added.

Mr Corbyn called on British prime minister Boris Johnson to provide Northern Irish businesses with assurances about future trading relationships and whether there will be a border down the Irish Sea.

“The prime minister promised in terms that there would be no border down the Irish Sea and then, as we revealed during the general election debate, that it is quite clear there is going to be some kind of tariff arrangement which is being prepared for. Now the prime minister must clarify this.”

Mr Corbyn denied his visit was a “lap of honour” before he stood down as party leader.

“I don’t do laps of honour,” he said. “What I am doing in the period before April, when another leader will take over the party, is listening to people all over the UK about the election result but also laying the basis for foundations in the party for the future.”