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Sir Keir Starmer says he is right to seek changes to Brexit deal but there's 'no case for rejoining the EU'
22 September 2023, 15:33 | Updated: 22 September 2023, 15:35
Sir Keir Starmer has insisted he is right to seek to change the Brexit deal but that there is no case for rejoining the European Union.
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The government has accused the Labour leader of wanting to reverse Brexit.
Speaking at a conference in Montreal, Sir Keir said: "Most of the conflict with the UK being outside of the [EU] arises insofar as the UK wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners...
"Actually we don't want to diverge, we don't want to lower standards, we don't want to rip up environmental standards, working standards for people at work, food standards and all the rest of it."
In further comments today made in the City of London, he said there was “no case for rejoining the EU, no case for the customs union or single market” and laws would be “made in this country for the public interest”.
But he added: “That does not mean that a Labour government would lower standards on food or lower the rights that people have at work.”
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“That's been consistent Labour Party policy for years. Incidentally, that's also Government policy.”
Mr Khan backed the Labour leader, who said last week that there was "a lot more common ground than you might think" between Britain and Brussels.
Sir Keir appeared to row back from his comments on Friday morning, saying there was "no case for rejoining the EU, no case for the customs union or the single market."
London mayor Mr Khan told LBC: "The current deal we have with the European Union isn't working. It's an extreme hard Brexit deal we've got with the European Union."
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Labour accepted the result of the 2016 referendum but the party does want "a better relationship with our nearest neighbours and trading partners".
She told the BBC: "It shouldn't come as a surprise to people that an incoming Labour government doesn't want to dilute workers' rights, environmental protections or food standards. That's not what Labour are about.
"But because we want those high standards, we think it is easier for an incoming Labour government to get a better deal with the EU to improve trading relations.
"Because the truth is, the deal that Boris Johnson secured three years ago is not good enough and we have seen a decline in trade between the UK and other European neighbours."
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She insisted there would not be "dynamic alignment", where the UK follows changes from Brussels and "we are not going to be rule takers".
Ms Reeves pointed to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently re-entering the bloc's Horizon research programme as evidence he was also not seeking divergence in all areas from the EU.
Sir Keir could be heard suggesting in footage obtained by Sky News that the more the UK and Brussels "share a future together", the less friction there would be between the two.
He has previously hinted he would seek a closer relationship with the bloc if he won power but has exercised caution in discussing these plans publicly.
Speaking at an international summit of "progressive" politicians including Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau over the weekend, he was more explicit about what his vision might involve.
"Most of the conflict with the UK being outside of the (EU) arises insofar as the UK wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners," he said.
"Obviously, the more we share values, the more we share a future together, the less the conflict, and actually, different ways of solving problems become available.
"Actually, we don't want to diverge, we don't want to lower standards, we don't want to rip up environmental standards, working standards for people that work, food standards and all the rest of it."
Chancellor Mr Hunt told LBC: "I think those kinds of comments about not wanting to diverge will worry a lot of people that what he really wants to do is to unpick Brexit.
"And we are going to make a tremendous success of Brexit. We've already started to do so. And there's lots more to come.
"We want to be good friends with our neighbours across the Channel. But I think any suggestion that you want to align our laws and regulations with the EU will worry a lot of the people who voted for Brexit."
Labour will be seeking to win back parts of the electorate who voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, and discussion of strengthening ties has been approached with caution so far.