Starmer rules out return to EU or single market under Labour
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Sir Keir vowed that Britain “will not go back into the EU” under a Labour government during a speech on Monday as he unveiled a five-point plan to “make Brexit work”, borrowing from the Conservatives’ pledge to “get Brexit done”. The Labour leader – who voted to Remain in the EU – claimed that any debate about the UK re-joining the bloc’s single market or customs union was over. Sir Keir also hit out at the Government over its Brexit agreement with the EU, telling BBC News it is “holding us back”. Under Sir Keir’s plan, Labour will act as an “honest broker” to fix the troublesome Northern Ireland Protocol and will “tear down unnecessary barriers” in a bid to ease trade frictions.
Sir Keir’s apparent acceptance of Brexit this week comes after Labour flip-flopped on the subject for years, and largely avoided talking about it during his leadership of the Labour Party.
However, these latest claims that the current Brexit deal is insufficient have been met with incredulity by critics, who have accused the Labour leader of being a major factor in the agreement being what it currently is.
As Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir negotiated with the then-Prime Minister, Theresa May and her team for a Brexit deal that Labour could support.
However, the Labour leader sabotaged the cross-party debate on Brexit as he walked away from the talks, leading to the deal he has now criticised, an insider claimed.
Lord Gavin Barwell, who was chief of staff to Mrs May and took part in the cross-party Brexit talks, lambasted Sir Keir for “killing” off any chance of a compromise between the Government and Labour.
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The Tory peer wrote about the Labour leader’s involvement in the Brexit talks between Mr Corbyn and Mrs May in his 2021 book, ‘Chief of Staff: Notes from Downing Street’.
Writing about the period after the talks broke down, he said: “Labour didn’t have any confidence that whoever succeeded her would abide by any deal.
“And it was pretty clear Keir was not prepared to settle for anything that didn’t include a commitment to a confirmatory vote.
“I’m not sure whether the Shadow Cabinet realised at the time, but they had killed off the last chance for a compromise Brexit.
“Jeremy Corbyn wanted to do it, but Keir Starmer stopped it. It seems fitting he’s now dealing with the consequences.”
As an ex-barrister, Sir Keir has sometimes been praised for using an analytical approach against Prime Minister Boris Johnson during their exchanges in the House of Commons.
However, according to Lord Barwell’s book, the apparently astute Labour leader failed to grasp some of the basic details of Brexit.
The former aide to Mrs May claimed that he was left “stunned” during one encounter with Sir Keir.
He said: “The Prime Minister met with Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Keir Starmer, then the shadow Brexit minister, and asked them whether Labour might be prepared to support the withdrawal agreement only.
“Keir replied that they could only do that if there was agreement on the future relationship and a second referendum.
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“‘Couldn’t those issues be sorted out during the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?’ I asked.
“No, he said, because we would have left by then.
“I was stunned that he did not understand the basic fact that we would not have left until the Withdrawal Agreement Bill had been passed.”
In another “embarrassing” moment for Sir Keir, the Labour leader was apparently unaware that he was rejecting one of his own Brexit proposals as he “objected to the language on customs” in a document.
Lord Barwell wrote: “I pointed out that we’d lifted it from his letter of April 22 — he was objecting to his own policy. He looked suitably embarrassed.”
Express.co.uk has reached out to Sir Keir Starmer’s representatives for comment.
‘Chief of Staff: Notes from Downing Street’ was written by Lord Gavin Barwell and published by Atlantic Books in 2021. It is available here.
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