Sir Keir Starmer vows no freedom of movement under plan to ‘make Brexit work’

Labour leader wants new agreement with EU on protocol – but rules out return to single market

Sam Blewett,Adam Forrest
Monday 04 July 2022 13:07 BST

Let’s take advantage of ‘Brexit opportunities’, says Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer will vow not to take the UK back into the EU single market or restore freedom of movement, as he sets out his plan to “make Brexit work”.

The Labour leader will also use a speech on Monday to say a government under his leadership would not join a customs union with the EU, in maintaining the hard Brexit brokered by Boris Johnson.

Instead the opposition leader will pledge to make the existing “poor deal” work by first fixing the Northern Ireland Protocol, which the prime minister is threatening to override.

In a behind-closed-doors speech for the Centre for European Reform think tank, Sir Keir will pledge to “eliminate most border checks” under the current protocol deal.

He wants a new veterinary agreement for agricultural products moving between the UK and EU, and an enhanced trusted trader scheme to allow low-risk goods entering Northern Ireland without unnecessary checks.

Having been shadow Brexit secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Keir will hope that taking a firm line on future relations with the EU will distance him from past support for a second referendum.

“There are some who say, ‘We don’t need to make Brexit work. We need to reverse it’. I couldn’t disagree more,” Sir Keir will argue.

He will add: “Because you cannot move forward or grow the country or deliver change or win back the trust of those who have lost faith in politics if you’re constantly focused on the arguments of the past.

“So let me be very clear: with Labour, Britain will not go back into the EU. We will not be joining the single market. We will not be joining a customs union.”

Having promised to seek a new veterinary agreement in a bid to resolve the protocol row, Labour would also try to extend a veterinary agreement to cover all of the UK – claiming it would “tear down barriers” for exporters.

Sir Keir will say that “revisiting“ old Brexit rows will not “help stimulate growth or bring down food prices or help British business thrive in the modern world”.

Keir Starmer will set out his Brexit vision

The Labour leader is also expected to argue that his plan will “deliver on the opportunities Britain has, sort out the poor deal Boris Johnson signed, and end the Brexit divisions once and for all”.

And he will argue his vision is “very different” to the Tories’ stance, which he argues is “about cutting standards, regulations and protections before stepping back and gawping at the power of the market”.

Instead, under his five-point plan, Labour would work to support industries by working towards mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

While Labour does not support the return of freedom of movement, the party said it would seek more “flexible labour mobility arrangements” – and help musicians and artists seeking short-term visas to tour more easily within the EU.

He said he would also work to strengthen security cooperation with Europe, seeking new security arrangements for British borders while sharing data and intelligence with allies.

Baroness Jenny Chapman, shadow Cabinet Office minister, has denied that Labour has plans to “unpick” Brexit.

The Labour politician told BBC Breakfast. “We’ve had so much division since 2016. I think the last thing certainly Keir Starmer wants to do is to revisit any of that.”

But Baroness Chapman said the party wanted to “resolve” problems the Tories are not fixing because of No 10’s “need to create a fight to garner some political support”.

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