Labor will oppose controversial legislation that will give ministers power to rip up parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Downing Street confirmed earlier today that legislation to override parts of the protocol would be introduced to the Commons on Monday.
However, Sir Keir Starmer has said his party will vote against any such legislation on a visit to Northern Ireland.
Speaking in Belfast, the Labor leader said: “We will vote against the legislation the government is putting before parliament. We think it is the wrong approach.
“I’m not pretending there aren’t issues and challenges with the protocol, of course there are.
“We have been listening to the political parties here, to communities, to business groups. I think those challenges can be overcome around the negotiating table with statecraft, with high levels of trust.
“It is that high level of trust that is missing with this prime minister and I think he is making a mistake by going down the route of legislation which will breach international law and, actually, I think, be an impediment to the negotiations that, in the end, are going to resolve these difficult issues.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol – agreed with the EU in 2019 – has been a source of tension since it came into force at the start of 2021.
It was designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland when the UK left the European Union.
However, it led to goods checks at NI sea ports on some products from Great Britain, effectively creating a new trade border in the Irish Sea.
Unionist parties argue this has led to extra costs and unnecessary delays, as well as undermining the union.
The row has paralyzed the devolved government following the local elections in NI as the DUP refuses to come to the table until there is “action” on the protocol.
During his visit, Starmer also said that if Labor were in power they would scrap the proposed legislation.
He added: “We would scrap the legislation and I think there has been an impasse in the negotiations because we haven’t seen the high levels of trust that we need for negotiations like this, not least from our prime minister.
“But also we need give and take on both sides. The EU, as well as the UK, to give and take, to be flexible about the approach.
“I do not think that the remaining issues of the protocol cannot be resolved with a different approach, with that high level of trust, with an honest broker prime minister getting people around the table and negotiating what needs to be negotiated.”
The UK government’s move will promptly a furious backlash from the EU – which believes the legislation could put the UK in breach of international law.
However, ministers have insisted the plans will be legal.
A No.10 spokesman said: “The bill has been agreed by the relevant cabinet committees and will be introduced to parliament on Monday. We will publish a summary of the legal advice alongside the bill.”