Sir Keir Starmer confirms his stance is 'no to the single market'
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Sir Keir announced on July 4 that Labour would not seek to rejoin the EU in Government, ruling out rejoiner hopes. The Labour leader instead committed to rebuilding trust with the EU and getting “a better deal for the British people”. However, a former MEP has recalled Sir Keir’s push for a second referendum and poured water on claims the Labour leader could negotiate a better deal.
Patrick O’Flynn, former Social Democratic Party MEP, said Sir Keir “should never be allowed to forget his Brexit betrayal”.
He said the Labour leader “broke his word to the British people about accepting the referendum verdict” while serving under Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr O’Flynn added: “A few days before the 2017 election, Starmer spoke for his whole party as its Brexit spokesman when he made an on-camera promise that it would accept the verdict of the 2016 referendum ‘from a position of principle’.
“Yet within 18 months he was agitating to overturn that verdict, arguing for a second referendum in which Labour would campaign for Remain.”
While serving as shadow Brexit secretary under Mr Corbyn, Sir Keir pushed for a second Brexit referendum despite Labour accepting the result in 2019, according to MPs.
He told UNISON in June 2019: “I think we will very soon say openly that we want to campaign for remain. But I want to do it as one.”
In August 2019, Sir Keir created confusion after saying Labour would campaign to remain in the EU in “any outcome”.
Mr Corbyn said repeatedly at the time Labour would only support Remain if the alternatives were a Conservative Brexit deal or no deal.
In Labour Together’s report on the 2019 election defeat, they cited Mr Corbyn’s leadership, Labour’s position on Brexit and the policy programme as key reasons why the party lost 60 seats.
In November 2020, Labour MPs Ian Lavery and Jon Trickett said Labour’s Brexit policy was an electoral disaster.
Writing in the Spectator, Mr O’Flynn said Sir Keir should be challenged on claims he will “sort out the poor deal Boris Johnson signed” and “secure a better deal for the British people”.
He added: “We know from the tortuous Brexit negotiations that the EU will not willingly reopen the withdrawal agreement or trade and cooperation agreement unless there is either a gun to its head or the UK is offering something substantial in return.
“Starmer’s Labour is never going to go down the gun route, so one must assume the Theresa May approach of formally ruling out stuff like customs union membership while constructing devices which in reality amount to just that will be back in evidence – a Lewis Carroll Brexit in which words mean just what the Labour leader chooses them to mean.”
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Stephen Boot, Head of the Britain in the World Project at Policy Exchange, also wrote for Conservative Home that the new Tory leader must see off Sir Keir’s plans to “remove Brexit as an electoral weapon”.
He said: “Keir Starmer has calculated that there is no electoral benefit to the Labour Party in reopening the Brexit debate in a fundamental way.
“In his Brexit speech last week, the one significant dividing line the Labour leader set out was over the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
Sir Keir proposed to negotiate a new UK-EU veterinary agreement for agri-food products to reduce checks, including across the Irish Sea.
Mr Boot continued: “Notwithstanding the crucial issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Starmer’s stated Brexit policy is not substantively different to that of the current Government.
“Starmer’s intention is to remove Brexit as an electoral weapon from the Conservatives.
“It therefore requires and allows a new leader to move on from a debate dominated by Brexit polemics on both sides and to get to grips with the trade-offs post-Brexit Britain faces.”
It comes as Sir Keir and David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, flew to Germany to meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Sir Keir is expected to tell Mr Scholz that Labour is ready to form a government and has a plan to ensure that Britain and Germany can work together to help boost economic growth and stand united against Russian aggression.
The leader and Mr Lammy are also aiming to find out what Britain can learn from the best economic models around the world, and how a future Labour government could work with other European nations to navigate the post-Brexit world.
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