Jeremy Corbyn wants the Irish government to have a role in Northern Ireland in the continued absence of a power-sharing agreement, he will say in a speech in Belfast.
Mr Corbyn will use his first visit to Northern Ireland as Labour leader on Thursday to call on the UK government to reconvene the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC), if Northern Ireland’s parties can’t reach an agreement themselves.
There has been no devolved administration in Northern Ireland since the Stormont government collapsed in January 2017.
Making a visit to Belfast in the week that marks 20 years since the referendums that endorsed the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, Mr Corbyn will say the “spirit” of the historic peace deal is needed to revive power-sharing at Stormont.
The Labour leader is expected to say: “Devolution and power-sharing have given every community a voice and helped maintain the peace process.
“If the current stalemate in Stormont cannot be sorted out in Belfast, I call on the UK government to reconvene the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.
“We must step up to find a creative solution, in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, that avoids a return to direct Westminster rule and lays the ground for further progress for all communities.”
The BIIGC was most recently convened in 2007, during the last prolonged suspension of the Northern Ireland executive.
It allows ministers from both the Irish and UK governments to promote bilateral cooperation and to discuss non-devolved matters.
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, it replaces the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council – set up in 1985 – and, it is argued, is interdependent on there being a devolved government at Stormont.
Sinn Fein has already called for the BIIGC to be convened as a means of breaking the Stormont deadlock, but the DUP have dismissed it as a “talking shop” that hasn’t met since 2007.
Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar also backs the BIIGC being convened to allow “real and meaningful involvement” by his government, and as an alternative to direct rule in Northern Ireland by Westminster.
On the “spirit of the Good Friday Agreement”, Mr Corbyn is expected to add: “We all need that spirit again – Stormont and Westminster parties, the British and Irish Governments, business and unions, UK and EU negotiators – if we want to secure 20 more years of peace and greater prosperity for the many not the few.”
The Labour leader will also repeat his commitment to there being no hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit, with an attack on the UK government.
Mr Corbyn backs the UK negotiating a customs union with the EU after Brexit, in contrast to the government who say that would hinder Britain’s ability to sign independent trade deals.
The Labour leader will say: “Driven by the free-market fantasists within their ranks, the reckless Conservative approach to Brexit is a very real threat to jobs and living standards here in Northern Ireland and risks undermining and destabilising the cooperation and relative harmony of recent years.
“Labour will not support any Brexit deal that includes the return of a hard border to this island.
“But we are also clear there must be no border created in the Irish Sea either.
“That is why Labour has put forward a plan that would go a long way to solving this issue, a plan for which I believe there is a majority in Westminster.
“Let’s not give up years of hard fought cooperation and stability for the pipe dream prize of race-to-the-bottom free trade deals with the likes of Donald Trump.”
Ahead of his visit to Belfast, Mr Corbyn’s spokesman revealed the Labour leader still supports an united Ireland.
He said: “Over the years he has made his position clear that the majority of those people across the whole island of Ireland wanted to see that outcome, a united Ireland.
“But in the context of the Good Friday Agreement that can only come about through that constitutional process that is laid down in the agreement and Jeremy fully supports that.”
Responding to Mr Corbyn’s expected speech, Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis said: “Labour are only interested in frustrating Brexit rather than making it a success for the whole United Kingdom.
“This Government remains resolute in our commitments to Northern Ireland, including upholding the Belfast Agreement.
“Labour on the other hand, say one thing in public but then in private say the Brexit risks to the Belfast Agreement were being played up.
“Only the Conservatives will get a Brexit deal that works for the whole of the UK.”
Former Labour shadow chancellor Chris Leslie MP, a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign for a referendum on the final Brexit deal, said: “Jeremy Corbyn must understand that if the UK leaves Europe’s economic area then being in the customs union will not be enough to stop the creation of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“Food and product safety and quality and rules of origin will force a UK outside the single market to implement a regime of border controls.”