Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, has revealed his intention to seek a “much better” Brexit deal with the European Union if Labour wins the next general election. Speaking at a conference of centre-left leaders in Montreal, Canada, Sir Keir criticized the current deal, which is due for review in 2025, as being “too thin”.
While he ruled out re-joining the customs union, the single market, or the EU, Sir Keir expressed confidence in negotiating a better deal for the UK. He emphasized the need to make Brexit work and ensure a brighter future for future generations.
His announcement marks a significant shift in political positioning for Sir Keir. Since becoming leader, he has been focused on reassuring voters that he would not seek to reverse Brexit or rejoin the EU. However, now that he has established this stance, he believes it is time to discuss changing the terms of the settlement.
The Trade and Co-Operation Agreement, signed by former Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2021, already contains a provision for review in 2025. While Brussels initially envisioned minor tweaks, Sir Keir may have more far-reaching changes in mind. These could include deeper trade ties, increased exchanges for young people and students, and easier rules for touring musicians and artists.
Sir Keir’s willingness to prioritize improved relations with the EU demonstrates his growing political confidence. Last week, he visited The Hague in the Netherlands to discuss how enhanced cooperation with the EU could help address the issue of small boats crossing the Channel.
The Conservative Party has already seized on Sir Keir’s comments, arguing that his position could alienate Brexiteers who supported the Conservatives in the 2019 election. They accuse Sir Keir of wanting to reopen the arguments of the past and take Britain back to square one on Brexit.
Despite the backlash, Sir Keir remains determined to make Brexit work. He has repeatedly emphasized that he does not seek to rejoin the EU if Labour comes to power, instead focusing on securing a better deal for the UK.
Building Better Relations with the EU
While in Canada, Sir Keir met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other centre-left leaders. He is also scheduled to travel to Paris later this week for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, where post-Brexit relations are expected to be a key topic.
His recent visit to The Hague, where he engaged with the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol, further underscores his commitment to fostering closer cooperation with the EU. The objective is to combat smuggling gangs involved in bringing people across the Channel in small boats.
Accusations from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman that Labour plans to turn the UK into a “dumping ground” for 100,000 migrants from the continent each year have been strongly refuted by Sir Keir. He dismissed these claims as “complete garbage.”
Labour has faced some internal debate and anxiety regarding the issue of accepting a quota of asylum seekers from the EU as part of a ‘burden-sharing’ migration agreement. However, Sir Keir has now firmly ruled out such a quota, putting an end to the discussion.
Sir Keir’s announcement has injected new energy into the Brexit debate. With Labour consistently holding double-digit leads in political opinion polls, a general election in 2024 could provide an opportunity for a Labour government to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU.
While the outcome of any potential renegotiation remains uncertain, Sir Keir’s determination to secure a better deal for the UK reflects his commitment to the country’s future. With an eye on future generations, he is determined to ensure that their prospects are not diminished by a subpar Brexit deal.
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