Keir Starmer is due to present Labour’s plan to improve Brexit with a focus on resolving issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, while insisting that any return to the single market or customs union is completely excluded.
In a further sign of the party’s new willingness to engage on a subject it largely avoided under Starmer, the Labor leader will present a plan to try to cut red tape on trade, job qualifications and other issues.
In Monday night’s speech to the Center for European Reform think tank, Starmer was to rule out any major changes, for example on joining the single market or scrapping Brexit, saying such a move would only revive conflict and cause division.
“In 2016, the British people voted for change. The very narrow question that was on the ballot – leaving or staying in the EU – is now a thing of the past,” he is expected to say, according to extracts published in advance by Labour.
“But the hope that underpinned this vote, the desire for a better, fairer and more equitable future for our country, is nowhere near being realized.”
Arguing over whether the UK should join the EU would be ‘looking over our shoulder’ and jeopardize public trust in politics, Starmer was to say.
“So let me be very clear: with Labour, Britain will not return to the EU. We will not enter the single market. We will not join a customs union,” the speech said.
“The reason I say this is simple. Nothing about the revised lines will help boost growth or lower food prices or help UK businesses thrive in the modern world. It would simply be a recipe for more division, it would prevent us from meeting the challenges people are facing and it would ensure that Britain would remain in lockdown for another decade.
Detailing a plan first outlined by David Lammy, the shadow Foreign Secretary, on the sixth anniversary of the Brexit vote in June, Starmer said a key priority would be to improve the trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK by eliminating most border controls.
This would be done through a new veterinary agreement for trade in agricultural products and a system allowing low-risk goods to enter Northern Ireland unchecked.
Other proposals would include a system of mutual recognition of professional qualifications with the EU and a new police and security agreement with Brussels.
While stressing that Labor does not want a return to freedom of movement, the plan would also include the idea of ’flexible labor mobility arrangements’ for people on business trips. short-term between the UK and the EU, and for musicians and artists embarking on tour.
Jenny Chapman, Labor counterpart 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 many splits since 2016. I think the last thing Keir Starmer certainly wants to do is see all of this again.
“But we think the Conservatives, because they have this way of dealing with issues – which is ‘if we have to create a struggle to get political support within our party, we will’ – they are adopting this approach to issues like Northern Ireland and we think that’s irresponsible, and we want to see those issues resolved.