Jeremy Corbyn has reached out to the DUP and said that Labour is “ready to step in and negotiate seriously” to find an alternative Brexit deal with the EU.
In an exclusive interview with Sky News, the Labour Party leader said the DUP “dislike the backstop for very good and sensible reasons” and that “absolutely” Labour’s version of Brexit can work for the Northern Ireland party and the people of the province.
He also said he wanted to find a “serious alternative” to the deal proposed by Prime Minister Theresa May.
Mr Corbyn said he is ready to “step in” without an election “straight away” by forming a minority government, if, as expected, the current government loses the meaningful vote on its Brexit agreement on Tuesday, which he said was a “matter of confidence”.
Asked by Sky News if he was making plans to form a minority government, Mr Corbyn said: “Listen we are ready to step in and negotiate seriously with the EU to put up a serious alternative which is a proper customs union – a customs union – with the EU in which we have a say in what goes on”.
Asked how it was possible to renegotiate this deal before March, Mr Corbyn suggested that the timetable could be extended for “a bit longer”.
He said: “We’d start negotiating straight away. If it meant holding things a bit longer to do it of course.”
He added that extending Article 50 was “an argument that may come up”.
The DUP has been highly sceptical of the Labour leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, because of their closeness to Irish Republican figures during the Troubles.
Persuading the DUP to vote against the government or at least to abstain in a vote of no-confidence would be necessary for Mr Corbyn, and has long thought to be an almost impossible prospect.
In recent weeks, however, both DUP Leader Arlene Foster and its Commons leader Nigel Dodds have praised Mr Corbyn’s sharing of its critique of the PM’s withdrawal deal and the “Irish Sea Border” backstop in particular.
Mr Corbyn also made an appeal to the large bulk of his members campaigning for a second referendum to “wait a few days”, making his strongest yet hint that Labour position is about to change.
Asked if Labour member who want a second referendum with an option to remain are wrong, Mr Corbyn told Sky News: “No they’re not wrong… but the option is there in our motion but we don’t get anywhere until we’ve defeated this deal that the government has put up.
“We are nearly there we are a few days away from it but let’s let it happen first”.
Mr Corbyn was also highly critical of the so-called Norway model of staying in the single market, currently being pushed by a cross-party coalition as a Brexit compromise.