Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer has pledged to enhance the UK’s trading relationship with the European Union if his party wins the next election in 2025. In an interview with the Financial Times, Starmer expressed his intention to seek closer ties with the bloc during the review of the current partnership. However, he clarified that he did not aim to rejoin the single market or customs union.
Instead, the Labour Party aims to improve the 2021 Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) negotiated by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Starmer emphasized the need for stronger collaboration in areas such as security, innovation, and research. While Labour has consistently advocated for improved relations with the EU, including reduced checks and paperwork for animals and certain foods, as well as closer ties in professional and financial services, they have no plans to renegotiate the TCA. Their goal is solely to enhance it.
Starmer criticized the TCA, describing it as inadequate and “far too thin.” He stated, “Almost everyone recognises the deal Johnson struck is not a good deal. As we go into 2025, we will attempt to get a much better deal for the UK.”
The Bank of England has previously acknowledged that Brexit has hindered the growth potential of the UK economy, impacting investment and productivity. The central bank’s deputy governor, Ben Broadbent, noted that the effects of leaving the EU were felt more quickly than anticipated, although they did not surpass expectations.
Opinion polls currently indicate that the Labour Party holds a significant lead of approximately 20 points over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party ahead of the expected election next year. Additionally, a majority of British citizens believe that Brexit was a mistake. Starmer, however, faces the challenge of striking a balance between pursuing stronger economic ties and avoiding criticism from both Brexit supporters and opponents who accuse him of seeking to overturn the 2016 referendum result.
Responding to Starmer’s remarks, Laura Trott, the UK’s pensions minister, expressed concerns about the Labour leader’s shifting stance on Brexit. Trott highlighted Starmer’s previous support for a second referendum and questioned the potential consequences of reopening the trade deal.
Keir Starmer’s commitment to improving the UK’s trading relationship with the European Union in 2025, without seeking to rejoin the single market or customs union, reflects Labour’s approach to Brexit. By aiming to strengthen the existing TCA rather than renegotiating it, Starmer seeks to strike a balance between the desire for closer ties with the EU and respecting the outcome of the 2016 referendum. As the 2025 review approaches, the Labour Party’s approach to Brexit and trade will continue to shape the political landscape in the UK.
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