Britain’s future is outside the EU, UK Labour leader Keir Starmer has said, as he promised to make Brexit work.
Writing in the Daily Express newspaper, Mr Starmer – who campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum – also said he would not be seeking a return to freedom of movement.
The comments are Mr Starmer’s latest pitch to Brexit-backing voters ahead of the next UK general election, with the Labour leader promising to improve on the UK-EU deal reached by Boris Johnson.
As British prime minister Rishi Sunak heads to the European Political Community summit in Moldova this week, the Labour leader said “the subject of fixing the Trade and Co-operation Agreement between the UK and the EU must be high up the agenda”.
“If we are to make Brexit work, we need a government with the vision and the focus to deliver it,” he wrote.
“As Rishi Sunak heads off to meet with Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, there are no signs that he or his Government have any proper plan to deliver that better future for our country.
“Britain’s future is outside the EU. Not in the single market, not in the customs union, not with a return to freedom of movement. Those arguments are in the past, where they belong.”
Mr Starmer said that the current deal between London and Brussels is “paper-thin”, arguing that it had “stifled Britain’s potential and hugely weighted trade terms towards the EU”.
“We need to act now. New border controls coming in at the end of the year will further restrict trade, damaging businesses and households.
“There is a deal to be done that makes good on the British people’s desire to maintain Britain’s high food and animal welfare standards and prevent the burden of bureaucratic red tape. It could save our importers hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
“Whether it is working with European neighbours to tackle criminal gangs and stop dangerous boat crossings, or driving down the price of food for hard-pressed British families, there is huge potential for change.
“That’s why we should be optimistic.”
“Every one of the problems I have outlined can be fixed from outside the EU. But it will require hard work, good relations and – above all – honesty.”
Labour has long accused the UK government of failing to secure a good Brexit deal with the EU.
Shadow finance minister Rachel Reeves used a visit to Washington earlier this month to suggest that the current Brexit deal would be “reviewed” under a Labour government by 2025.
“Pretending everything is going fine or ducking hard conversations will see Britain miss opportunities and slip behind our competitors”, he said.
“If we are to get this right, Rishi Sunak must face up to the truth – that the Tories have got this wrong. Failure to do the hard yards needed right those wrongs will mean the Tories fail to deliver for Britain and fail to deliver on the promise of Brexit.”