'Backing EU over UK!': Starmer in heated Northern Ireland border clash during BBC row

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Sir Keir Starmer has been pressed on how a Labour Government would take the Northern Ireland Protocol during a call-in on BBC Radio 5 Live. The Labour leader told a caller from Belfast there could never be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Presenter Nicky Campbell interrupted the conversation to warn Sir Keir against appearing like he was siding more with Brussels than London. 

Host Campbell questioned why the UK could not just “tweak it” before warning the Labour leader risked opening himself up to suggestions he is backing the “EU over the UK.”

Sir Keir replied: “The Government has said it is going to rip it up – that is what is destroying our reputation internationally.”

He added that a veterinary agreement between the UK and the EU would make a “massive difference”.

“The EU has got to give and take as well”, he stressed.


Sir Keir said the UK “needs to make Brexit work”.

The Labour leader said: “We need to improve on the deal we have got, because it is not a good deal and it isn’t working for many businesses.”

During a Q&A on BBC Radio 5 Live, he said there are “too many burdens and barriers to doing business”.

Asked about the potential advantages of Brexit, Sir Keir pointed to VAT being taken off energy bills.

“It is astonishing the Government hasn’t gone down that route. We have left the EU and we’re not going back and therefore we have to make it work.”


“I have got relatively young kids… We have got to put our shoulder to the wheel and make Brexit work.”

He said the UK should “stop arguing over the (Northern Ireland) Protocol”.

The UK has been urged to re-engage with talks on how to improve the Northern Ireland Protocol as three European Parliament committees were presented with draft laws that would be used in the event that the UK continues with its Protocol Bill.

The UK government is progressing legislation to give ministers powers to override elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was jointly agreed by the UK and EU as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to keep the Irish land border free-flowing.

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This unilateral move has been criticised for contravening international law.

Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South Sean Kelly was the lead author in finalising a report on the draft legislation, which looks at the measures contained in the post-Brexit trade deal on what retaliatory action can be taken if one side does not adhere to its obligations.

 This aims to prevent a repeat of when the European Commission controversially suggested in early 2021 that Article 16 of the protocol could be triggered in response to a row with the UK about Covid-19 vaccine supplies.

Addressing a joint meeting of the European Parliament’s trade, foreign affairs and constitutional affairs committees on Wednesday, Mr Kelly said that the Bill demonstrated the UK Government’s “willingness to be aggressive and headstrong”.

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