Northern Ireland news

Jeremy Corbyn clarifies support for backstop

Jeremy Corbyn said he supported the backstop but there had been a 'misunderstanding' in his use of language

JEREMY Corbyn has said his initial rejection of the Brexit backstop was a "misunderstanding" and that he now supports the insurance policy against a hard border.

The opposition leader had previously called for changes to the backstop, prompting south Armagh-born Labour MP Conor McGinn to say he risked alienating nationalists in the north.

Mr McGinn told The Irish News his party leader's claim that the backstop threatened the integrity of the UK could create a "perception that he is engaging disingenuous politics".

But in an interview with the BBC, Mr Corbyn has rowed back on his previous comments.

He said he supported the backstop but there was "a misunderstanding in my use of language".

"What I said was there were concerns about the way in which it could lock you into a customs union from which you could never negotiate any removal," he said.

He said he wanted to see a continuation of north-south trade and wanted to ensure there was an arrangement in place that "protects the border".

"Call it the backstop, call it what you like, but make sure it protects the principle of the open border," he said.

The Labour leader, a long-time supporter of united Ireland, said a border poll was "some way off".

"If there is a demand for a border poll within the terms of the Belfast Agreement and supported by the government in Dublin, I think we would obviously consider it," he said.

The Labour leader's remarks come as Taoiseach Leo Leo Varadkar said he will work to secure a deal when he meets Boris Johnson in New York next week.

"We were in touch today – I'm going to meet him next week in New York and try to get a deal," the Fine Gael leader said.

The pair met in Dublin last week for the first time since Mr Johnson became prime minister in July.

Mr Varadkar, who met DUP leader Arlene Foster in Dublin on Wednesday, said that while he was optimistic following the meeting, gaps remained.

"If I were to assess the situation, I would say there is a real willingness to find a deal," he said.

"Nobody wants no-deal to happen and very few people want no-deal to happen. I am certainly not one of them. No-one wants to be to blame or to be responsible for no-deal."

The taoiseach said the "rhetoric has tempered and the mood music is good".

"There is a lot of energy and a lot of positivity – the difficulty is that when it comes to the substance of the issue that needs to be resolved, the gaps are still very wide and we have no time to lose," he said.

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