Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said that the UK should take advantage of the opportunities of Brexit, completing a remarkable turnaround in his position since the party’s 2019 election defeat.
Starmer, who has previously backed calls for a second referendum on EU membership, said that there was now no case for re-joining the EU and that there was a need to get the best out of the deal and “make Brexit work”.
Speaking during a visit to the north east of England, Starmer said: “I want to make sure we take advantage of the opportunities, and that we have a clear plan for Brexit. That’s what I’m working on.”
Improve the deal
Chief executive of the Best For Britain campaign group, Naomi Smith, said Labour must start to challenge the government on details of its Brexit deal.
“If Labour are serious about creating post-Brexit opportunities, they must start by improving the botched Brexit deal, making trade easier with our closest neighbours and avoiding a race to the bottom for standards in the UK,” she told the Independent.
Starmer’s comments were leapt on by SNP leader Ian Blackford, reports the Standard.
Blackford said a Labour government “would continue to impose Brexit on Scotland” and tweeted ONS data showing that UK exports to the EU fell by £20bn in 2021 compared to 2018.
Labour’s trade policy has recently focussed on prioritising European markets in future trade deals and giving great consideration to the human rights and environmental records of countries that Britain does deals with.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow trade secretary has warned that the government should not be a “soft touch” in trade talks, following reports that the UK could be under pressure from Canada to relax a hormone ban on beef imports.
“The government should be standing up for the UK and not allowing farmers to be undercut,” he told the Telegraph.
Get deals done
Thomas-Symonds also told Politico that Labour would be “pursuing trade deals around the world” including with the US.
He added that Labour would look to adopt President Biden’s approach of worker-centred trade policy, giving trade unions a stronger voice in trade discussions.