The British Labour party leader, Kier Starmer, has criticized Boris Johnson over abandoning the prime minister’s role as honest broker in Northern Ireland and bringing trust in the province to an “all-time low”.
Speaking during a three-day visit to Northern Ireland along with the shadow Northern secretary, Louise Haigh, on Thursday, Starmer accused Johnson of having “betrayed” the people of Northern Ireland (NI) and of not being “straight” with them about the consequences of the NI protocol.
“He is now pretending it is someone else’s problem, and in Northern Ireland that won’t wash,” Starmer told PA news, adding that “there is a practical way forward if the parties are flexible and negotiate, but the most important thing is trust”.
He stressed that the PM’s failure to present a positive case for the UK puts the four-nation union under “considerable strain”.
Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, the Labour leader said “almost everybody in Northern Ireland feels that the prime minister negotiated the protocol, he mis-sold it - misrepresented what its consequences really are - and now he is not taking responsibility for fixing it”.
He believed that government plans to end Troubles-related prosecutions of military veterans, fueled the public distrust toward Johnson’s cabinet.
Previously, David Frost, the Brexit minister, was accused of “profound dishonesty”, while introducing a new governmental “approach” toward the NI protocol, if the EU does not accept changes to the implementation of the protocol.
Haigh said that during their meetings with the NI’s political parties they had discussed a deal that would reduce the checks in the Irish Sea border, adding that there had been “relative consensus that is part of the solution”.
She hit back at Brexit Minister saying that “unilateral mechanisms” are not “sustainable solutions” but unfortunately “that’s what we anticipate will happen in the next couple of weeks from David Frost.”
Meanwhile, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader, Colum Eastwood, said Johnson “has to get his head around that you can’t have a hard Brexit and also avoid checks in the Irish Sea”.
With recent clashes over NI Protocol and Irish Sea border, the EU is concerned about UK’s determination to abolish the legal agreement and simply “banking” the concessions it has made, before asking for more.