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Labour MP apologises for Good Friday deal criticism

By Aubrey Allegretti, Political Reporter
Labour's shadow international trade secretary has been forced to apologise for branding the Good Friday Agreement a "shibboleth".
In a recording of a meeting in Brussels in March, Barry Gardiner said the historic power-sharing deal was being "played up for economic reasons".
He also predicted there was no reason to fear that a hard border would see the return of violent sectarianism in the region.Mr Gardiner said: "I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border and the need to have the shibboleth of the Good Friday agreement.
Labour MP apologises for Good Friday deal criticism

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Mr Gardiner talked down fears of a hard border after Brexit
"And that is because it is hugely in the Republic of Ireland's economic interest to make sure that there is no tariff and no external border there."A shibboleth is a custom or belief distinguishing a particular group of people - often one that is considered as outdated.Mr Gardiner's remarks were in sharp contrast with Labour policy, with leader Jeremy Corbyn saying in February: "No one should be willing to sacrifice the Good Friday Agreement, the basis for 20 years of relative peace, development and respect for diversity in Northern Ireland."Mr Gardiner first rubbished reports of his comments, calling the claims "nonsense on stilts".
But an audio recording of his words was later published by The Guardian, and he apologised.The Brent North MP said he was "deeply sorry" that his "informal remarks" had "led to misunderstanding".
Labour MP apologises for Good Friday deal criticism

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It is 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed
He said: "In particular, that my use of the word 'shibboleth' in its sense of 'pass word' or 'test of membership' gave the impression that I thought the Good Friday Agreement was in any way outdated or unimportant."I absolutely do not."Owen Smith, fired as Labour's shadow Northern Ireland secretary last month for backing a second EU referendum, had accused Mr Gardiner of being an "ideological Brexiteer".
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He said: "I worked in Northern Ireland with Barry and it is remarkable that he can display so little understanding of the vital and continuing importance of the Good Friday agreement, or of the essential need to avoid any hardening of the border in Ireland."Meanwhile, former prime minister Tony Blair told Sky News: "It does matter greatly - I'm not sure that Barry really said that or meant that in that way but for those people who say that the Good Friday Agreement doesn't matter they should just remember what things were like."
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