Labour's Corbyn tells EU's Barnier hard Irish border must be avoided

Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers his keynote speech at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, Britain, September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said he had told the EU’s Brexit chief Michel Barnier in talks on Thursday that Britain’s withdrawal must not disrupt trade across the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.

Corbyn, who has previously met Barnier and once brought him an Arsenal football shirt as a gift, stressed that he was not negotiating with him on his visit to Brussels but laying out Labour’s views on the dangers of a no-deal Brexit.

“He (Barnier) was interested to know what our views are,” Corbyn told reporters.

Barnier has offered no opinion on the merits of Labour’s Brexit proposals - which envisage Britain staying in a customs union with the EU after Brexit - as opposed to those of Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May.

Corbyn said on Wednesday Labour would vote against a Brexit deal based on May’s own proposals, the strongest warning yet to a prime minister whose plan to leave the EU is hanging by a thread.

May has said the EU needs to show Britain respect and come up with their own alternatives to her so-called “Chequers” proposals, which EU leaders rejected at a summit in Austria last week. She has said Labour’s meetings with EU officials are undermining her efforts to negotiate a Brexit deal.

Reporting by Alistair Smout in London and Daphne Psaledakis in Brussels; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel