Belfast Telegraph

Corbyn: My Irish backstop views were misunderstood

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

By Staff Reporter

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn last night said there had been a "misunderstanding" when he implied last year that he did not support plans for an Irish backstop as part of the proposed UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.

"There was a bit of a misunderstanding in my use of language, to be honest," he said last night.

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

He reaffirmed his commitment to the peace process.

"Let me be clear about this: I want to see the Belfast Agreement in operation," he said.

"I do not want to see a hard border - I want to see the continuation of trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic. I want there to be a peace process in Ireland, and that means full support for the Belfast Agreement, and make sure trade continues.

"If any kind of border is introduced between Northern Ireland and the Republic ... then clearly that is a huge backward step which I do not want to see."

Pressed whether he would support a Brexit deal that includes a backstop, the Labour leader said: "I would make sure there is an arrangement that protects the border - call it backstop, call it what you like, but make sure it protects the principle of the open border."

The Labour leader made the frank admission during an interview with BBC Northern Ireland during which he also said there was no prospect of a border poll in the near future.

"Within the Belfast Agreement there are provisions that a border poll could be held," he said.

"I don't think it's soon - it's some way off.

"If there is a demand for a border poll within the terms of the Belfast Agreement and it is supported by the Government in Dublin I think we'd obviously consider it at that time."

The Labour leader said he would not campaign for a border poll if there were a Labour government.

"No, the Labour government would be neutral on it," he said.

Asked if he thought he'd see a united Ireland in his lifetime, the leader of the opposition said: "I'm hoping to have a long life, but I'm honestly not sure.

"At the end of the day that's a decision for the people of Ireland."

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