Keir Starmer says he doesn’t want to diverge from EU
Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of wanting to “rejoin the EU in all but name” after he admitted he does not want Britain to diverge from the bloc’s rules.
The Labour leader, who campaigned for Remain and a second referendum, made the comment at a centre-left conference in Montreal, Canada.
Sir Keir said: “Most of the conflict with the UK being outside of the EU arises in so far as the UK wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners.
“Obviously the more we share values, the more we share a future together, the less the conflict. And actually different ways of solving problems become available.
“Actually we don’t want to diverge, we don’t want to lower standards, we don’t want to rip up environmental standards, working standards for people that work, food standards and all the rest of it.
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“So suddenly, you’re in a space where, notwithstanding the obvious fact that we’re outside the EU and not in the European Economic Area, there’s a lot more common ground than you might think.”
Tories seized on Sir Keir’s remarks at the international summit last Saturday.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “Keir voted Remain. Then he backed a second referendum. Then he didn’t. Now he wants to rejoin the EU in all but name. What does Labour stand for?”
Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands said: “The mask slips. He used to be the cheerleader for a second EU referendum. Looks like little has changed.”
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said the comment has “shown the real Keir Starmer”.
He said: “I’m afraid that Keir Starmer has shown that he wants us to go back into the EU and back to the Brexit agonies of the past.”
Former Cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke said the “whole point of Brexit is our ability to do things differently”.
He went on: “From our vaccine rollout to Freeports to solvency rules to our membership of the CPTPP, we are already demonstrating why this matters. Being a rule-taker, blindly following the EU, would be a disastrous mistake.”
Ex-Brexit minister Lord Frost said Sir Keir’s comment was “no surprise” but added that it was “good to have it said”.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said that the “man who blocked Brexit 48 times reverts to type”.
It comes as Sir Keir has pledged to seek a closer trading relationship with the EU if his party wins power at the next general election.
He said he would push for a “much better” Brexit deal, but insisted he would not rejoin the single market or customs union.
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The Labour leader headed to Paris for a cosy meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday following his trip to Canada.
Sir Keir’s talks with Mr Macron came as France and Germany put forward plans for EU reform which would allow the UK to return as an “associate member”.
A Labour source said: “The Tories haven’t diverged further from the EU. We’re clear that we won’t drive down standards on food or for workers. If the Conservatives disagree, they should come clean with the public on which standards they want to reduce.”
A party spokesman added: “We don’t support dynamic alignment. We’re not joining the single market or the customs union. We will not be in a situation where we are a rule-taker.”
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