Speaking to the Financial Times, Sir Keir Starmer has promised to seek a major rewrite of Britain’s Brexit deal in 2025 if the Labour party wins the next general election.
Starmer told the FT that if his party comes to power, as it is predicted to, he will force through a closer trading relationship with Brussels and a new partnership with.
Saying he owes it to his children to rebuild relations with the EU, the Labour leader said that he saw Britain’s Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU (negotiated by former prime minister Boris Johnson and due for review in 2025) as an “important” moment to reset relations.
“Almost everyone recognises the deal Johnson struck is not a good deal — it’s far too thin,” he said. “As we go into 2025 we will attempt to get a much better deal for the UK.”
Starmer was questioned by the FT while speaking at a conference of centre-left leaders in Montreal, Canada.
The trip, which precedes meetings with EU bigwigs, has been pitched as an effort to present himself as a prime minister-in-waiting.
On Saturday, Starmer held talks with Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau and on Tuesday he will travel to Paris for talks with French president Emmanuel Macron.
It is understood that his trip to France will heavily focus on post-Brexit relations and ‘rewriting’ the Brexit deal, with many fearing he plans to bring the UK back into the EU in all but name.
Part of the ‘negotiations’ are set to include striking a veterinary agreement with the EU — reducing onerous border checks on animals and food — along with an agreement on the recognition of professional qualifications.
He also plans to appear to be tackling illegal immigration by attacking illegal traffickers and smugglers – however it has been pointed out that he also plans to make it easier for legal immigrants to enter the country, increasing immigration by up to 100,000 per year.
Speaking on the margins of the Global Progress Action conference this weekend, he said: “I think there’s more that can be achieved across the board.”
He also said he wanted a closer union with the EU, particularly in areas such as security, innovation and research
Starmer did, however, reiterate his view that the UK should not rejoining the customs union, the single market or the EU itself. But Brexiteers remain skeptical.
“I do think we can have a closer trading relationship as well. That’s subject to further discussion,” he added. “We have to make it work. That’s not a question of going back in. But I refuse to accept that we can’t make it work. I think about those future generations when I say that.
“I say that as a dad. I’ve got a 15-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. I’m not going to let them grow up in a world where all I’ve got to say to them about their future is, it’s going to be worse than it might otherwise have been. I’ve got an utter determination to make this work.”
Starmer said his plans for funding the party’s wider economic programme would not require new taxes on the rich. “We haven’t had significant growth for 13 years,” he said. “We have to turn that around. It’s an in-principle error to go to tax rather than growth as your first priority.”
Meanwhile, Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and Lord David Frost have both warned that the Labour Party could be planning to betray Brexit and drag Britain back in line with the European Union.
Speaking on his GB News show, Rees-Mogg threw scorn on Labour’s latest proposals relating to illegal immigration and the building of new homes.
Saying that Labour ‘cannot be trusted not to betray Brexit,’ Rees-Mogg warned that Sir Keir Starmer’s latest trips to EU bigwigs is a sign that a future Labour government – an increasingly likely prospect – seeks to essentially bring the UK back into the EU in all but name.
Meanwhile, Lord Frost, who was Chief Negotiator of Task Force Europe from January 2020 until his resignation in December 2021, warned that Britain is now ‘in serious danger of losing Brexit’.
Saying that Labour has shown its hand but too many Tories have also given in to the dismal Theresa May view of the EU, Lord Frost wrote in the Telegraph that ‘the country may feel in a bit of a mess at the moment, but things can always get worse. Keir Starmer and the Labour Party have given us a glimpse this week of what a Labour-run Britain would be like.’
‘Now we have the Starmer plan for stopping the boats: to promise the EU that, in return for the bloc taking back illegal arrivals here, we would take in a larger number of illegal arrivals there,’ he continued. ‘Why he thinks such an unequal bargain would be in our interests, or why our immigration numbers should depend on the ability of Italy, Spain and Greece to control their own borders – that’s anyone’s guess.
‘It’s all part of a pattern. Labour claims to want economic growth but will vote against any specific effort to make it happen. It claims to like business in theory, but not if it infringes trade union rights. It wants to build houses but not if that upsets its perfectionist, fantasy-world view of the environment.
‘And, above all, Labour wants to take us back closer to the EU. If the party can’t get us back in, it would, if elected, agree unequal deals to make us an EU rule-taker in return for the nebulous benefits of greater co-operation. It’ll begin with a food standards agreement; then align elsewhere; then bring us closer to the single market and customs union again. Each step Labour will present as sensible and pragmatic, opposed only by fanatics – but gradually we will be back in the EU tractor beam. Facilis descensus Averno.’