Sir Keir Starmer vows no freedom of movement under plan to ‘make Brexit work’

He will set out his vision for a Labour government to improve post-Brexit relations while staying out of the single market.

03 July 2022

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will vow not to take the UK back into the single market or restore freedom of movement as he sets out his plan to “make Brexit work”.

He will use a speech on Monday to say a government under his leadership would not join a customs union with the EU, in maintaining the hard Brexit deal brokered by Boris Johnson.

Instead the opposition leader will pledge to make the existing “poor deal” work by first fixing the Northern Ireland Protocol, which the Prime Minister is threatening to override.

In a behind-closed-doors speech for the Centre for European Reform think tank, Sir Keir will pledge to “eliminate most border checks” under the current deal.

He would work for a new veterinary agreement for agricultural products moving between the UK and EU and improve trust to allow low-risk goods to enter Northern Ireland without unnecessary checks.

“We will get the protocol working and we will make it the springboard to securing a better deal for the British people,” Sir Keir is expected to say, as he pledges to “tear down unnecessary barriers”.

Having been shadow Brexit secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Keir will hope that taking a firm line on future relations with the EU will distance him from past support for a possible second referendum.

“There are some who say ‘We don’t need to make Brexit work. We need to reverse it’. I couldn’t disagree more,” Sir Keir will argue.

“Because you cannot move forward or grow the country or deliver change or win back the trust of those who have lost faith in politics if you’re constantly focused on the arguments of the past.

“So let me be very clear: with Labour, Britain will not go back into the EU. We will not be joining the single market. We will not be joining a customs union.

“The reason I say this is simple. Nothing about revisiting those rows will help stimulate growth or bring down food prices or help British business thrive in the modern world.

“It would simply be a recipe for more division, it would distract us from taking on the challenges facing people and it would ensure Britain remained stuck for another decade.”

He will add: “We will not return to freedom of movement to create short-term fixes. Instead we will invest in our people and our places, and deliver on the promise our country has.”

Sir Keir will say his plan will “deliver on the opportunities Britain has, sort out the poor deal Boris Johnson signed, and end the Brexit divisions once and for all”.

And he will argue his vision is “very different” to the Tories’ stance, which he argues is “about cutting standards, regulations and protections before stepping back and gawping at the power of the market”.

Instead, under his five-point plan, Labour would work to support industries by working towards mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

He said he would also work to strengthen security cooperation with Europe, seeking new security arrangements for British borders while sharing data and intelligence with allies.

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