Irish border fears ‘could lead to extended Brexit transition period’

Written by Emilio Casalicchio and Tom Freeman on 24 May 2018 in News

Jeremy Corbyn visits Belfast to make case for customs union as Theresa May asks EU for transition period to be extended

Irish boder - PA

Fears over the impact of Brexit on the Irish border could yet influence the UK’s customs arrangements with Europe after Brexit, it has emerged.

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to ask Brussels for an add-on to the planned transition period to prevent a hard border between the north and the Republic, according to reports in the Times.

Meanwhile Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is to visit Belfast to make the case for the UK to remain in a customs union.

Currently the transition agreed with the EU will last from March next year to the end of 2020 - but there are fears that a new post-Brexit customs plan will not be ready in time.

According to the Times, May will offer a promise to Brexiteers to face down pro-Remain Tory MPs over calls for the UK to remain in the customs union, but only on condition of a further regulatory alignment period until 2023.

Visiting Belfast on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement, Corbyn will vow that Labour will never vote for a Brexit deal that could lead to a hard border on the island.

He is expected to say: “Opposition to the idea of bringing back a hard border to this land isn’t just about avoiding paperwork or tariffs, important though that is, it’s about deep rooted cultural and community ties.

"An open border is a symbol of peace, two communities living and working together after years of conflict, communities who no longer feel that their traditions are under threat.”

Corbyn will also call for the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to be reconvened so that the Stormont assembly can be reinstated.

“Look back at the sacrifice and courage shown at all levels of society that paved the way for something that had once seemed impossible. That was the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

“We all need that spirit again - Stormont and Westminster parties, the British and Irish Governments, business and unions, UK and EU negotiators - if we want to secure 20 more years of peace and greater prosperity for the many not the few.”

Corbyn’s spokesman yesterday said he still supports a united Ireland - but backs the methods set out in the Good Friday Agreement for achieving it.

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