Brexit: Keir Starmer urged to be stronger on ‘improving shambolic’ EU deal to help businesses
"Britain can no longer afford to have one hand tied behind our back with new red tape, new costs and lost opportunities from Brexit," Naomi Smith said.
and live on Freeview channel 276
Campaigners have urged Sir Keir Starmer to be stronger on improving the “shambolic Brexit deal” if he wants to cement his status as being friendly to business.
The Labour leader has made a key part of his pitch that he wants to replace the Conservatives as the so-called “party of business”. Twice in his conference speech he said he wants to “hold out hands” to industry.
However, Starmer has been very clear that there is “no case” for rejoining the EU, single market or customs union, despite Brexit regret being at an all-time high.
Naomi Smith, chief executive of Best for Britain, a group campaigning to keep the UK close to the EU, says that if Labour really wants to show it’s listening to business it has to focus on improving trade relations with the EU.
She said: “Keir Starmer says he wants to extend the hand of partnership to business but business leaders will also want Labour to extend their other hand across the Channel to improve the shambolic Brexit deal.
"Britain can no longer afford to have one hand tied behind our back with new red tape, new costs and lost opportunities from Brexit.”
Goods from Britain have faced EU controls since it left the bloc’s single market at the start of 2021, but the UK has repeatedly put off checks in the other direction - with the government saying the extra costs could cause food inflation.
Currently, when UK businesses trade animal and plant products with the EU they get hit by post-Brexit red tape, while European firms are still able to export goods without full checks. Farmers have told NationalWorld that it means they're being undercut by their EU counterparts.
North Wiltshire farmer Liz Webster, from the Save British Farming campaign, says that issues with the UK’s food security are being exacerbated by not being in the single market.
She told NationalWorld: “Starmer has obviously made a decision not to go near Brexit until Labour have won power. But once he’s won power and is in office, he faces an increasingly worsening food crisis and can’t fix it because he won’t have a mandate to get back in the single market.
“The only way we’re going to fix this looming food crisis is by getting back in the single market and customs union asap, and that also will get growth back. If they win power without a mandate to plug Britain back into the EU, then Labour will be stuck in this low-growth trap and all the inevitable chaos that assures.”
Starmer appears happy not to give himself wiggle room when it comes to rejoining the single market. A senior party figure told NationalWorld “there’s no way Labour will go near rejoining”.
At the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, message discipline was incredibly tight around Brexit. Starmer’s line, that there is no case for rejoining, was echoed even amongst some of the most pro-EU MPs in the party.
Stella Creasy told a fringe event: “Whoever has tried to get toothpaste back into a toothpaste tube after they’ve accidentally squeezed out too much - that is what trying to reverse Brexit feels like. It’s an impossible proposition - so what we need to do is to set out what we can do instead.
“As Covid has gradually moved away, the damage that Brexit is doing to Britain has become clearer and clearer to the British public. There are many challenges facing our economy, but Brexit is the only challenge that we are directly responsible for.”
While former New Labour Cabinet minister Douglas Alexander told the audience that Starmer was right to be cautious electorally, and compared this to Labour issues in Scotland after the independence referendum.
He said: “We lost a generation of support to Labour with people who voted yes to independence in 2014 and then felt they had to re-litigate that referendum choice nine months later in the general election in 2015, and the following elections of 2017 and 2019.”
Alexander said the most important thing to do was to show the EU it can trust a Labour government. During his conference speech, Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy outlined the party’s position.
“Earlier this year the Conservative Party press office attacked me for saying that improving our relationship with the European Union will be a priority. Conference, I’m happy to repeat it,” he said.
Lammy cited the importance of trade, security and crime co-operation and university links. He added: “With Labour there will be no return to the Single Market or the Customs Union. But Keir Starmer is committed to improving our relations with the EU. Delivering Britain a much better deal. And seeking a new security pact to keep our country safe.”