DUP MP Sammy Wilson has branded Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit speech as “cheap political opportunism” and accused him of “betraying” Labour voters.
Commenting on the Labour leader’s backing for the UK being in a permanent customs union with the EU, the senior DUP figure said Mr Corbyn’s Brexit policy “completely overturns previous promises made by Labour during the last general election”.
The East Antrim MP added: “It is a blatant attempt to bring down the government rather than safeguard the interests of the UK or workers in industries who would benefit from the United Kingdom’s freedom to make its own trade deals outside a customs union.”
Mr Wilson said the DUP would be giving its full support to the government to oppose what he labelled a “Brexit wrecking policy”.
Meanwhile, TUV leader Jim Allister said trying to keep Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU was “wholly incompatible” with the Province’s status within the UK.
The North Antrim MLA added: “The threat of a NI/ROI border comes not from the UK but from the ideologues of the EU who make their common external tariffs a binding part of the Europhile ‘religion’.
“Hence, the obligation in the Lisbon Treaty on a frontier EU member state to maintain such tariff borders. Thus, it is the Republic, not Northern Ireland, which will have to provide frontier checks.”
Sinn Fein’s spokesperson for Brexit, David Cullinane TD, described Mr Corbyn’s speech as a ‘welcome dose of reality”.
He added: “Britain remaining in a form of customs union and single market with the EU will weaken the possibility of a hard border on the island of Ireland post-Brexit.
“The only way to ensure there is no border checks on the island is for the north to stay in the full customs union, the single market and the EU legal framework.”
Mr Corbyn’s statement was also welcomed by SDLP leader Colm Eastwood, who called it “the first step in the right direction” by the Labour leadership.
He added: “Alignment with the rules of the single market, as outlined in the phase one agreement, is critical to protecting Northern Ireland from the economically irrational ideology of the Brexiteers. It is to this position Jeremy Corbyn must now have the courage to carry his party.”
Giving the Labour leader’s speech a “qualified welcome”, Alliance MLA Stephen Farry MLA, said: “The commitment to a customs union from Jeremy Corbyn is necessary but not sufficient to protect the UK’s current and future economic prosperity.
“Regrettably, there remains a lack of clarity in relation to the need for continued participation in the single market. This is even more central to economic opportunities and prosperity.”