Labour has denied it wants to “unpick” Brexit, ahead of a speech on the issue by Keir Starmer on Monday evening in which he will pledge to cut back on trade and travel-based red tape with the EU.
Engaging with a subject his party has largely sought to avoid since he took over as leader, Mr Starmer will stress that Labour has no plans to try to get the UK back into the EU’s single market or customs union.
Detailing a plan first outlined by David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, on the sixth anniversary of the Brexit vote in June, Mr Starmer will reportedly condemn the current situation as a “mess”.
Mr Starmer’s speech, initially briefed only to the Financial Times, will call for amendments to the deal to assist trade and short-term travel.
“They [ministers] have created a hulking fatberg of red tape,” the paper quoted the speech as saying. “It is hampering the flow of British business. We will break that barrier down.”
He will say a Labour government would seek agreement with the EU to reduce agrifood checks, as well as mutual recognition of product standards. The former would be used to remove most trade checks on goods between Britain and Northern Ireland, seeking to ease tensions over the protocol that Boris Johnson’s government wants to amend unilaterally.
Another deal would ease short business trips and help musicians and the like tour in Europe. Other elements would involve mutual recognition of professional qualifications and keeping the UK in EU science programmes such as the Horizon scheme, and closer links on policing and security.
The speech will stress this is not a precursor to rejoining the single market or customs union, or bringing back freedom of movement. “Nothing about revisiting those rows will help stimulate growth or bring down food prices or help British business thrive in the modern world — it would simply be a recipe for more division,” Starmer will say.
Jenny Chapman, a Labour peer and shadow Brexit minister, said the plan was not an attempt to reverse Brexit. “I think that would be the last thing the country wants to see,” she 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 we do think that the Conservatives, because they have this way of dealing with problems — which is all about ‘if we need to create a fight to garner some political support within our party, we’ll do that’ — they’re taking that approach to issues like Northern Ireland and we think that that’s irresponsible, and we want to see these issues resolved.” — Guardian