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Saturday 20 April 2019

Some type of Brexit backstop is needed, admits UK Labour

Keir Starmer suggested Labour understood need for a backstop
Keir Starmer suggested Labour understood need for a backstop

A version of the Irish backstop will be required in any Brexit deal, the UK Labour Party's Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer has said.

In comments that are being interpreted as significant by officials in Dublin, Mr Starmer indicated that his party is open-minded on the backstop.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will today reveal her latest plan to secure a Brexit deal - but suggestions of a side deal with Ireland on the Border have been totally dismissed.

Her International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said one possible solution to the current impasse could be for the UK to strike a deal with the Irish Government guaranteeing there would be no border controls on the island of Ireland.

He said that could ease concerns about a backstop that would keep Northern Ireland in an EU customs union unless and until an alternative arrangement is agreed.

However, this idea was instantly shot down by Government sources, who said anybody talking about side deals needs to go and study "the basics" of how the negotiations work.

"Ireland is part of the EU27, which negotiates as a block. There are no bilateral deals," a source said.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney will be in Brussels today for a scheduled meeting of European foreign ministers.

Frustrations

He will also use the opportunity to discuss the current stalemate and preparations for a no-deal scenario with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Amid growing frustration at the EU level over the lack of progress in London, Mr Coveney was yesterday forced to refute claims from a former Brexit secretary that he had not ruled out an exit mechanism from the backstop.

Dominic Raab described Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as "less moderate" than Mr Coveney when it came to the idea of placing a end date on the backstop.

However, Mr Coveney tweeted that himself and the Taoiseach have "always been on the same page" in relation to the Withdrawal Agreement.

Separately, Government sources said Mr Raab was "trying to rewrite history" and his claims were "horse manure".

Ahead of another hectic 24 hours in UK politics, Irish officials were closely analysing the comments from Mr Starmer.

With Mrs May's Conservative Party deeply divided, any moves made by the UK Labour Party this week could play a major role in deciding what direction Brexit travels next.

"At this stage any deal probably does require a backstop and we've got to recognise that," Mr Starmer told the BBC.

"There are problems with this backstop and we have got to recognise that but because we are in this stage of the exercise, nearly two years in, the chances now of a deal that doesn't have a backstop are very, very slim."

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