Vauxhall Labour members have condemned their own MP Kate Hoey’s controversial claim the Good Friday Agreement is “not sustainable”.
The motion by the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) on Thursday to disassociate itself from Hoey’s position was passed by a near-unanimous vote of the committee.
Hoey drew widespread criticism this week after she told HuffPost UK it was time for a “cold, rational look” at the 1998 accord.
Emily Wallace, chair of Vauxhall CLP, told HuffPost UK: “There was near-unanimous support for the motion discussed by the Vauxhall GC last night, who were keen to stress the importance of the Good Friday Agreement for maintaining stability in Northern Ireland and disassociate themselves with the position taken by Kate on this issue.”
It marks the second time the local party has publicly spoken out against their MP. Last year the CLP slammed Hoey for championing Brexit, saying she had failed to represent the views of “either our members or our wider communities”.
The move will heighten speculation they could move to deselect Hoey in future.
In response to the motion, Hoey said: “During my 29 years as the MP for Vauxhall, there have been many motions passed criticising different comments I have made so this is nothing new. The 50 members who were there out of a total membership of nearly 2000 are entitled to their views.”
Power-sharing talks between the DUP and Sinn Fein broke down last week, leaving Northern Ireland without a devolved government for a 13th month.
Hoey had said that mandatory coalition, the central plank of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), should end as it had proved to be “not sustainable”.
The GFA, brokered by Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and supported by a majority of Northern Ireland people in a referendum, ended 30 years of sectarian conflict which had claimed 3,532 lives.
Brexiteers have been accused of talking the deal down in order to pave the way for a clean break from the EU’s Customs Union - a move which would make a hard border inevitable.
Tory MP Owen Paterson, a former Northern Ireland Secretary, tweeted that the GFA had “outlived” its use. Dan Hannan, an MEP and fellow hardline Brexiteer, argued that the accord had failed in an article for the Telegraph.
Asked for her view, Hoey told HuffPost UK: “I think there is a need for a cold rational look at the Belfast agreement.
“Even if a settlement had been agreed a few days ago there is nothing to stop Sinn Fein or the DUP finding something else to walk out about in a few months. Mandatory coalition is not sustainable in the long term.
“The Belfast agreement has been changed slightly over the years with the St Andrew’s agreement. We need to face reality - Sinn Fein don’t particularly want a successful Northern Ireland. They want a united Ireland.”
“There are politicians prepared to sacrifice the Good Friday Agreement on the altar of Brexit and declare that the peace agreed in Northern Ireland is not, really, worth having anyway,” he wrote, in an article for his think tank, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
“This is irresponsibility that is frankly sickening.”
The Vauxhall MP attempted to row back from the comments during a session of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday.
Hoey, who is from Northern Ireland and a member of the committee, said her view was that the Belfast agreement should be “refreshed”.
She said: “If anyone says anything, and I’ve seen it from myself in the last day or two when I’ve said something about maybe the Belfast agreement could be refreshed and we could look at ways, it’s as if you’re, I don’t know, saying you want to kill all babies at birth or something, it really is.”
Hoey clashed with Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP, as he gave evidence to the committee.
He said Brexit “has been a massive shake to people”, particularly in border communities.
“Getting rid of mandatory coalition is not tinkering, it is a fundamental change in what the GFA represents,” he told her.
He went on: “I noted your own comments and I noted other people’s comments and you seem to be focused on ensuring that we get out of the Customs Union and Single Market and that we have a Brexit no matter what.”
Hoey hit back, saying: “I can assure you my comments were nothing to do with Brexit.”
Eastwood replied that he thought Brexiteers were working together.
He said: “It seems fairly co-ordinated to me and I’m putting the warning out there that the impact that has on communities is one that is very, very destabilising.
“I, for one, and the people of Northern Ireland and the people of Ireland as a whole will not have the Good Friday Agreement torn up just to facilitate a very awkward negotiation that is going on between the UK and the European Commission.”