Jeremy Corbyn has said he agrees with French President Emmanuel Macron’s stance on Brexit in that the Irish border backstop is “indispensable”.
Macron met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday and told the UK leader that the EU “will not find a new withdrawal agreement within 30 days that will be very different from the existing one”.
Macron also said that the difference in opinion on the backstop was “not just technical constraints or legal quibbling”, but “genuine indispensable guarantees” in order to maintain the single market’s integrity and Ireland’s stability.
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Leader of the opposition, Corbyn, has backed those notions, telling reporters in a visit to Cumbria: “I agree with President Macron. The question of the Irish border is fundamental to a lot of things.
“The Irish peace process was an enormous step forward – it’s an international treaty, it’s an international agreement.
“It cannot be negotiated away by Boris Johnson or anybody else.
“So, I think President Macron is quite right to say they’re not going to allow a hard border to return in Ireland and I’m absolutely with him on that.”
The purpose of the backstop is to prevent a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but it has been criticised for leaving the UK too closely linked to the single market and EU rules without any influence.
Theresa May presented a deal including the backstop to Parliament in a vote that was rejected on three separate occasions and received criticism from Labour leader Corbyn for “locking Britain into a deal from which it cannot leave without the agreement of the EU”.
He has invited other party leaders and senior MPs to a meeting next week to talk about ways to stop a no-deal Brexit occurring, which Johnson has claimed will happen if an agreement is not reached for the UK to leave the EU on 31 October.
Corbyn is expected to use the meeting to present his motion for a vote of no confidence in the government, although he was shot down by a number of MPs last week who were concerned at the prospect he would then take temporary charge.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has also hit back at the idea Corbyn could be a caretaker Prime Minister, proposing that Tory MP Ken Clarke, or Labour’s Harriet Harman, take on the role instead.
Corbyn used his time in Cumbria to promote the “disastrous” effects a no-deal Brexit would have on British agriculture and insisted that Labour would support a second referendum, although he would not be drawn on whether a government led by him would offer its own Labour-led Brexit option in a public vote.
“There’s no need for this 31 October deadline to be there,” he said.
“Boris Johnson could perfectly easily take much longer to negotiate, much longer to talk about it, listen to what other people are saying instead of holding this cudgel to everyone’s head saying, it’s got to be done by 31 October with all the damage that will do to our farming communities.”
He added: “In a referendum between no deal and Remain, we would support Remain.
“Any other option would have to be coming out of our democratic processes in the Labour Party.
“But, to be very clear, the people of this country will have a choice on their future.”