Keir Starmer speech: what did Labour leader say about Brexit and party’s position on EU?

Labour leader Keir Starmer spoke during a keynote speech at the Irish Embassy in London, where he said Labour would not rejoin the EU if elected to power

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Sir Keir Starmer has laid out the Labour party plan for living in a post-Brexit world, by committing to not rejoining the European Union.

The Labour leader spoke at a keynote speech to the Centre for European Reform at an event at the Irish Embassy in London, where he revealed that his party was committed to staying out of the EU following the 2016 Brexit vote.

Tempers have flared on both sides of the Brexit debate in recent weeks, following scrutiny of the Northern Ireland Protocol bill.

But Sir Keir has confirmed that Labour will not be seeking to rejoin the EU, while adding that the party would try to cut down on the “bureaucracy” created by the Protocol.

Sir Keir Starmer has set out Labour’s five-point plan to ‘mark Brexit work’. (Credit: PA)Sir Keir Starmer has set out Labour’s five-point plan to ‘mark Brexit work’. (Credit: PA)
Sir Keir Starmer has set out Labour’s five-point plan to ‘mark Brexit work’. (Credit: PA)

What did Sir Keir Starmer say during ‘make Brexit work’ speech?

During his speech at the event, Sir Keir stated that he disagreed with those who were seeking to reverse Brexit, saying that the country “cannot move forward or grow” by doing so.

The party leader confirmed that Labour would not be seeking to either rejoin the European Union, join the single market or join a customs union.

He said: “There are some who say, ‘We don’t need to make Brexit work – we need to reverse it’. I couldn’t disagree more.

“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.

“We cannot afford to look back over our shoulder because all the time we are doing that we are missing what is ahead of us.

“So let me be very clear. Under 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.”

Instead, the opposition party has detailed steps to living in a successful post-Brexit Britain.

One of the main issues that needs resolving according to the Labour leader is the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said that should the Labour Party be elected in the next General Election, “most border checks created by the Tory brexit deal” would be removed, with a “new veterinary agreement for Agri-products between the UK and EU”.

Sir Keir added that a Labour government would also put in place a “better scheme” to cut back on “unnecessary checks” for low-risk good entering Northern Ireland.

Sir Keir said: “Labour would extend that new veterinary agreement to cover all the UK, seeking to build on agreements and mechanisms already in place between the EU and other countries – benefiting our exporters at a stroke.”

He added that the “hulking ‘fatberg’ of red tape and bureacracy” surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol will be cut down, saying: “We will break that barrier down, unclog the arteries of our economy and allow trade to flourish once more.”

To conclude his keynote speech, the Labour leader siad: “In 2016, the British people voted for change. The very narrow question that was on the ballot paper – leaving or remaining in the EU – is now in the past.

“But the hope that underpinned that vote – the desire for a better, fairer, more equitable future for our country is no closer to being delivered.

“We will not return to freedom of movement to create short-term fixes, instead we will invest in our people and our places and deliver on the promise our country has.”

What has been the reaction?

Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives have rubbished Sir Keir’s speech, with Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg accusing the Labour leader of a “half-hock” attempt to copy Tory plans.

Speaking to LBC ahead of his speech, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I’m fascinated by what he’s got to say, or reports of it … and what he wants to do, by and large, is things either that the Conservatives are doing (because) they want to change the Northern Ireland Protocol, so I hope he’ll support us on our Bill.

“And he wants recognition of qualifications, which we’ve already legislated for. So you do wonder if he was half asleep last year.

“I think all that Sir Keir is going to be saying later on today is that he wants to do what the Conservatives are doing but half-cock, so it’s not much of an announcement by him today.”

However, Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds backed the leader, and added that the party would not turn its back on its Brexit plan even if public opinion on Brexit sways.