Keir Starmer held secret talks with Emmanuel Macron about Brexit,The Independent can reveal because the row between Labour and the federal government over Europe deepened.
A supply near the Labour chief stated Sir Keir and the French president mentioned plenty of thorny points once they met this week in Paris – together with Britain’s relationship with the EU and methods to sort out small boat channel crossings.
Sir Keir later described the talks as “very political”, whereas the supply informed The Independent the pair “covered all the difficult issues, not just pleasantries”.
The assembly got here in opposition to a backdrop of debate over what any renegotiations with the bloc would possibly contain and after Sir Keir – who’s strolling a tightrope on Brexit forward of the following election – stated he wished a “closer trading relationship” with the EU.
And as King Charles rounded off a three-day appeal offensive with the French president, throughout which he vowed the UK will “always be one of France’s closest allies and best friends”.
As hypothesis grew on Labour’s place, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt accused the opposition of desirous to “unpick” Brexit if it wins the following basic election – an accusation which Sir Keir rapidly moved to reject.
The assault follows Sir Keir’s boldest feedback but on the subject, hinting at his imaginative and prescient for the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
Speaking at a convention of centre-left leaders in Canada, he stated that he does “not need to diverge“ from the bloc’s guidelines on employees’ rights, meals and the setting.
“Most of the battle with the UK being outdoors of the [EU] arises in as far as the UK needs to diverge and do various things to the remainder of our EU companions,” he stated.
“Obviously the extra we share values, the extra we share a future collectively, the much less the battle. And, truly, other ways of fixing issues grow to be obtainable.
“Actually we don’t need to diverge, we don’t need to decrease requirements, we don’t need to rip up environmental requirements, working requirements for those who work, meals requirements and all the remainder of it.”
Sir Keir’s remarks drew flak from the Conservatives with Mr Hunt saying the opposition’s stance “will worry a lot of the people who voted for Brexit”.
Environment minister Mark Spencer accused the Labour chief of “flip-flopping” in his strategy to Brussels, saying: “To keep obsessing – as the Labour Party do – over Brexit and looking back with pink-tinted spectacles and talking about following their rules, I think just takes us back in time.”
As Tories hit out at his remarks, the Labour chief was compelled to inform reporters there was no intention of reversing Brexit. He stated there was “no case for rejoining the EU, no case for the customs union or single market” and that legal guidelines can be “made in this country for the public interest”.
But he added that this “does not mean that a Labour government would lower standards on food or lower the rights that people have at work”.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves additionally rejected the criticism, saying it “shouldn’t come as a surprise” that Labour wouldn’t “dilute workers’ rights, environmental protections or food standards”.
She stated Labour accepted the results of the 2016 referendum however added: “Because we would like these excessive requirements, we predict it’s simpler for an incoming Labour authorities to get a greater deal with the EU to enhance buying and selling relations.
“Because the reality is, the deal that Boris Johnson secured three years in the past is just not adequate and we have now seen a decline in commerce between the UK and different European neighbours.”
Sir Keir has promised to push for an improved buying and selling relationship with the EU if Labour types the following authorities. Both the Montreal assembly and the Paris talks have been a part of a global tour designed to painting the Labour chief as a primary minister in ready.
At the identical time, France and Germany have been stated to be pushing plans to supply Britain “associate membership” of the EU.
Some Brexiteers have argued that leaving the European Union presents a chance to alter laws in areas like product requirements or the setting – which have been beforehand agreed in Brussels whereas Britain was a member of the union.
Other voices, comparable to commerce unions and environmentalists, have stated EU guidelines assist preserve UK requirements excessive and warned in opposition to divergence.
And companies have additionally warned that divergence from the EU would possibly create additional prices.
Under the Brexit deal negotiated by Boris Johnson, the UK’s rulebook will steadily diverge from the EU’s – although plans to right away purge the statute books of all EU laws have been deserted by Rishi Sunak
Other approaches to Brexit, comparable to remaining within the single market, would require Britain to stay synced to EU guidelines – however would decrease commerce boundaries in comparison with now.
A spokesman stated Labour wouldn’t rejoin the only market or customs union, and Britain is “not going back in any form” to the EU.