LABOUR leader Sir Keir Starmer has ruled out any hope of a referendum on Irish re-unification should he become the UK's next prime minister.

Starmer was interviewed by BBC News NI ahead of the Labour Party Conference kicking off this weekend.

Asked about the Northern Ireland's position within the UK, Starmer said: "I don't think we're anywhere near that kind of question."

He added: "It's absolutely hypothetical. It's not even on the horizon."

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Starmer has previously said that he would campaign to maintain Northern Ireland as part of the UK if a referendum were to be held in his lifetime, but his comments cast doubt on whether such an event could ever take place.

It follows the news that the Labour leader - and former Remain campaigner - is keen to re-negotiate a deal with the EU over Brexit in the event he becomes UK prime minister.

Questions therefore remain as to the future of Northern Ireland's relationship with the EU, if circumstances were to shift and any changes were agreed on the Irish Sea Border which currently exists.

The current situation has resulted in Northern Ireland being left without a devolved government, as members of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have refused to take their seats in Stormont.

The National: Stormont

The Labour leader ruled out entirely the possibility of a Swiss-style deal - which would see the UK adhering to EU rules with the oversight of the European Court of Justice.

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Starmer said: "I'm not interested in a deal that puts the UK in a position of being a rule taker."

"Our rules must be made in Westminster, according to the national interest of the UK as a whole.

"I am interested in resolving some of the outstanding issues. And obviously, that will mean making progress on things like the Windsor [Framework] agreement - the protocol - because that was a step in the right direction, which is why we said we would support it.

"So it's quite clear that there can be improvements and I think in Northern Ireland in particular, there will be a lot of interest in whether we cannot have some measures which take away some of these still remaining tensions that are very obviously there."

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Starmer said that returning a devolved government to the Stormont Assembly as quickly possible would be the driving force behind his Northern Ireland policy, stating that the UK Government must play the role of an "honest broker".

He said: "We've talked to all the political parties in Northern Ireland, as you know, and as you would expect, so I'm well aware of the issues the DUP have and I think there are ways to resolve them," he said.

"The wrong thing to do is to simply say there are issues that need resolving. The right thing to do is to get in the room and resolve.

"There's one further thing that I think is important. I did work in Northern Ireland for five years, with the Policing Board and the police service, and I know that the role of the UK government as honest broker is crucial in finding agreement, where it may not appear it's there initially.

"I'm worried that our government has moved away from that honest broker role."