Northern Ireland

Keir Starmer says Irish border poll 'not on horizon'

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: James Manning/PA
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: James Manning/PA Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: James Manning/PA

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer has said a border poll on Irish unity is “not even on the horizon” as he called for power-sharing at Stormont to be restored.

The Westminster opposition leader was asked about the possibility of a referendum by the BBC on Thursday as he discussed issues including the Windsor Framework and the controversial Troubles legacy bill.

Mr Starmer, whose party remains firmly ahead of the Conservatives in the polls ahead of an expected UK general election next year, indicated to the broadcaster he did not expect a border poll in the foreseeable future.

"I don't think we're anywhere near that kind of question. It's absolutely hypothetical. It's not even on the horizon,” he said.

The labour leader has previously said he would campaign in favour of the union if a referendum was called.

Meanwhile, he said he was interested in “resolving some of the outstanding issues” regarding Brexit, including the Windsor Framework deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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He said the Windsor Framework was a “step in the right direction”.

The DUP is boycotting power sharing at Stormont over the Protocol, and the party has said the Framework does not address its concerns.

“It's quite clear that there can be improvements and I think in Northern Ireland in particular, there will be a lot of interest in whether we cannot have some measures which take away some of these still remaining tensions that are very obviously there,” Mr Starmer said.

"We've talked to all the political parties in Northern Ireland, as you know…so I'm well aware of the issues the DUP have and I think there are ways to resolve them.

"The wrong thing to do is to simply say there are issues that need resolving. The right thing to do is to get in the room and resolve.”

He added Labour was talking to parties in the north to get devolution restored “as quickly as possible”.

On the Troubles legacy bill, which shadow NI secretary Hilary Benn said this week must be replaced, Mr Starmer said: “We need to look at what the other options are.”

He added: “If I know anything about Northern Ireland, it's that you don't sit in London imposing things on Northern Ireland if you do not have the support of the political parties or the communities."