Unite: Northern Ireland political representatives must support a form of customs union to avoid a damaging hard border

In the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive, Unite regional coordinating officer, Davy Thompson, demanded those elected to represent Northern Ireland in Westminster to vote against the destructive impact that would result if the United Kingdom as a whole did not retain a form of customs union with the European Union.

“Tens of thousands of Northern Ireland workers are employed in businesses which are dependent on the free movement of goods and services into the province. Should the UK as a whole not re-establish a form of customs union arrangement with the EU post-Brexit the reality is that these jobs would be under a serious and long-term threat.

“Due to political failure, we do not have a functioning Executive and Northern Ireland’s voice is not being heard. It is vital that our politicians do not fail Northern Ireland again and allow a situation where a hard border becomes unavoidable.

“In the absence of any customs union arrangement, the only question will be whether we get a hard land border, north-south, or a hard sea border, east-west. Both outcomes would be hugely damaging to our already weak economy.

“Tens of thousands of jobs are tied to trade in goods and services between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Any hard border will result in delays and red tape for our manufacturing and agri-food sectors in particular and result in disinvestment and the further loss of jobs in higher-value added sectors of the economy.

“It is not surprising that hard-line Brexiteers in the Conservative party don’t care about that outcome, but it is shocking that local representatives are not straining might and main on this issue.

“Given the legally-binding backstop agreement already signed up to by the UK Government and the EU’s outright rejection of their proposed technical arrangements to avoid a hard land border, any Northern Ireland MP voting against a form of customs union is, in effect, voting for a hard sea border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

“That is indefensible from the perspective of our manufacturing sector which is highly integrated into UK-wide production processes – and will result in a very serious threat to investment and jobs here in Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland’s politicians must use their Westminster seats to secure a tariff-free trade access deal – there can be no excuses given the dire consequences of a hard border. It is in everyone’s interests here that the UK secures a customs union arrangement with the EU and avoids the impact that a hard border will have on our economy and on the working-class”, Mr Thompson said.

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