Sir Keir Starmer will on Friday vow to support Rishi Sunak if he strikes a deal with Brussels over the Northern Ireland Protocol in a move that underscores his “make Brexit work” stance.
The Labor leader will say in a speech at Queen’s University in Belfast that he will give the Prime Minister “whatever political cover you need” to reach an agreement.
The move indicates that Sir Keir will order Labor MPs to vote through any such deal in the House of Commons, which would secure its passage even if Tory Eurosceptics rebel.
The drive is underpinned by political calculation, with Sir Keir eager to hammer home that his Remain-voting past is behind him and he could be trusted with Britain’s post-Brexit future.
The Labor leader is seeking to win back Brexit-voting “Red Wall” seats in the North and Midlands that voted for Boris Johnson at the last election despite historic Labor support.
Sir Keir will say: “The spirit of 1998, on both islands, is not one of political partisanship.
This is the process which brought Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness together – and they made it work, there can be no clearer example than that.
‘Whatever mechanism in Westminster you require, we will support you’
So I say to the Prime Minister, if there is a deal to do in the coming weeks – do it.
“Whatever political cover you need, whatever mechanism in Westminster you require, if it delivers for our national interest and the people of Northern Ireland, we will support you.”
In contrast, on Thursday night Sadiq Khan, the Labor London Mayor, called for a debate on Britain rejoining the single market and customs union, saying “Brexit isn’t working”.
Mr Khan went against the policy of his national party to advocate a return to closer economic ties with the European Union.
Sir Keir has ruled out rejoining the single market if Labor were to win the next election, and last week appropriated a Vote Leave campaign slogan by promising to unveil a “Take Back Control Bill”.
In a speech to business leaders in the capital at Mansion House, Mr Khan said: “I simply can’t keep quiet about the immense damage Brexit is doing.
Ministers seem to have developed selective amnesia when it comes to one of the root causes of our problems. Brexit can’t be airbrushed out of history or the consequences wished away.”
Meanwhile Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, said that the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol had been too strict after holding Brexit talks with Northern Ireland’s major political parties.
He said: “I’m keen to repair and restore relations, not just with the political parties here but also with the UK Government. And between the European Union and the UK. I think the reason why relations became strained in the first place was because of Brexit but there’s no point in revisiting all of that.”