This week starts a crucial period in our trade negotiations with the EU. Labour want the government to succeed, to secure a deal in the national interest, and to protect the Good Friday Agreement.
So it has been deeply concerning that, ahead of the negotiations, the government has decided to make unilateral changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which forms part of the Withdrawal Agreement. This approach jeopardises the progress of the negotiations and the chance of securing a much-needed deal.
The Protocol was not foisted on the Prime Minister by Brussels, by a previous government, or by Parliament. The Prime Minister personally renegotiated it, campaigned on it, legislated for it, and ratified it in an international treaty. The elements of the Protocol left to negotiate are not insignificant but neither are they insurmountable.
With these latest moves, some fear the Prime Minister is once again using Northern Ireland as a political football to suit his wider political means. The resignation of the government’s chief legal adviser suggests that concern over the government’s approach runs to the very top.
At the heart of this are the people and businesses of Northern Ireland who risk paying the price. For them, this is not the latest episode in a Brexit drama – this is a profoundly worrying moment that will shape their livelihoods, their businesses and their future.
The government’s actions reopen the uncertainty they hoped had been settled, take us backwards in negotiations, and undermine trust.
How can the people of Northern Ireland trust this government with the careful progress made over the last two decades when they tell them that the Protocol is necessary to protect it and then suggest it undermines it?
How can the British people trust a government who swore they had an oven-ready deal only ten months ago and now tell them that deal was ambiguous and contradictory?
And how can our partners and allies around the world now trust us to enter trade negotiations or multilateral arrangements?
In the national interest, I have urged the government to stop the posturing, rediscover their responsibility, and secure the deal that was promised to the people of this country.