Labour urged to clarify stance on border poll after Haigh departure

The Labour Party has been urged to clarify if it would campaign to retain the Union in the event of a border poll, following comments from its outgoing shadow Northern Ireland secretary.
Louise Haigh MPLouise Haigh MP
Louise Haigh MP

Louise Haigh, who is moving from the Northern Ireland role to take on the transport portfolio for her party, suggested neutrality is a “25-year Labour policy”.

She had been responding on social media website Twitter to a post by News Letter editor Ben Lowry about her departure from the Northern Ireland role.

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The post contained an article referring to an earlier comment she had made in an interview with GB News, when she said she would not campaign for Northern Ireland to stay in the UK in the event of a border poll.

Yesterday, she moved on Twitter to “put to bed” any suggestion she was moving from her role as Northern Ireland spokesperson to transport spokesperson because of her comments on a border poll, which contrasted sharply with the view espoused by party leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Sir Keir had said, in an interview with the BBC back in July, that he would campaign for Northern Ireland to stay in the Union in the event of a border poll.

DUP MP Carla Lockhart, meanwhile, accused Ms Haigh of directly contradicting her party leader.

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“Less than six months ago Sir Keir Starmer was clear that he would campaign for Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom in any future border poll,” Ms Lockhart said.

“The comments of Louise Haigh not only contradict these but demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the principle of consent.”

She continued: “There is an irony that the shadow secretary of state criticised the prime minister in her interview for his custodianship of an agreement which she either doesn’t understand or has chosen to misrepresent.

“It is simply wrong to suggest that the United Kingdom government must remain neutral on Northern Ireland’s constitutional position. It relates the fact that any decision to change Northern Ireland’s constitutional status will be decided and voted upon by the people of Northern Ireland. The principle of consent no more precludes the UK government from promoting the Union than it prevents the Irish government for advocating that Northern Ireland be removed from the United Kingdom.

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“It is important to know who speaks for the Labour Party on this issue.”

Ms Lockhart added: “Whilst even Louise Haigh recognises the strong support for the Union rules out any border poll, her comments strike at a more fundamental issue. That is the repeated misquoting and misinterpretation of the Belfast Agreement to drive a political agenda. The common theme is that unionist interpretation and views are not taken into consideration.”

The News Letter has asked the Labour Party to clarify its policy.