A Labour government would look to improve, not scrap, the Brexit deal Boris Johnson struck with the EU, according to shadow foreign secretary David Lammy.
Labour’s stance on Britain’s relationship with the EU came the day before the Conservative Party suffered twin defeats in the Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton by-elections, throwing sharp focus on what a Keir Starmer-led government would seek to achieve if it came to power.
No to single market
Speaking at a Changing Europe’s annual conference (23 June), Lammy said Labour would seek only limited changes and would not apply to re-join the single market.
“You might not like it, but Labour is determined to govern the entire country,” he said adding, “there cannot be a rehash of arguments.”
The Guardian reports that Labour’s EU wish-list would be to:
- strike an agrifood agreement
- restore mutual recognition for professional qualifications such as accountants and architects
- seal a deal on financial equivalence for the City of London
- negotiate an improved long-term deal for UK hauliers to ease supply chain problems.
Labour would also attempt to secure associate membership of the EU’s £80bn Horizon science funding network – which the EU is delaying because of the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol – and restore visa-free business travel for touring musicians and performers.
The party would also aim to maintain Britain’s data adequacy status with the EU, making UK digital services companies more competitive and successful.
Lammy’s speech called on the EU to be “less rigid” and insisted that Labour would get a better hearing in Brussels as a trusted voice.
“I’ve been told frankly by EU partners that if there was a partner they could trust, they could show more flexibility,” he said.
Lammy was speaking on the sixth anniversary of the Brexit vote at the same event that former Brexit minister Lord Frost said that Brexit “was working” and argued the EU’s refusal to compromise made action on the protocol necessary.
“It is unfortunate that, given all the sensitivities, the EU has refused to look at that compromise again and helped us put together something that would properly support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and enjoy cross-community consent,” said Frost.
“We should be negotiating for a risk based approach for goods entering NI from GB,” said the Tottenham MP, calling for good faith negotiations to secure a “Northern Ireland approved” goods designation.
He argued this “could exempt products moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland from regulatory checks and customs requirements … as long as these goods meet specific mutually agreed conditions.” Acknowledging that checks would still exist, Lammy argued that this would reduce their volume, number and frequency.
The government has proposed a bill to unilaterally change parts of the protocol, arguing this is the only solution after months of stalled negotiations.