Sir Keir Starmer rails against a "speed-dating" approach to Brexit

 
Helen Cahill
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Starmer wants to take time to decide Labour's policy (Source: Getty)

Sir Keir Starmer has defended his decision not to outline detailed proposals for the UK's future relationship with the EU, saying he has become irritated by a "speed-dating approach to Brexit".

The shadow Brexit secretary has said that a future deal with the EU must prioritise jobs and the economy, and should retain the benefits of staying in the customs union.

Read more: Starmer insists Labour is "flexible" on Brexit as divisions widen

However, speaking at an event at Labour conference today, he said: "I get frustrated with the sort of speed-dating approach to Brexit.

"It is complicated."

A faction within Labour has been pushing for the party to press for the UK to remain within the Single Market and the customs union, but Starmer has not committed to such a move.

Today he said the UK should be positive as it meets the challenge of forging a new relationship with the EU.

"I do not want to get into the idea that it will never be as good as it was [pre-Brexit]," he told delegates at the fringe event.

He made it clear that the party would not be seeking widescale deregulation after Brexit, however, arguing that this would not be conducive to forming close ties with European partners.

"People have to play by the same rules and one of the fundamental differences between [Labour] and the government is that we do not want to move away from that level playing field, he said.

Read more: Labour MPs slam own party's move to block key Brexit vote

"That is inconsistent with any relationship with the EU going on...The two do not go together, we are not in the business of deregulating."

Alison McGovern, Labour MP for Wirral South, has been pushing for the party to back membership of the Single Market because it would show a commitment to open immigration.

Speaking at an event organised by lobby group TheCityUK, McGovern said: "Immigration has made our country strong, not weak, and we should stop pretending otherwise."

However, other key figures in the party have argued that retaining freedom of movement, which would be part of staying in the Single Market, would be a denial of the result of the EU referendum result.

Shadow City minister Jonathan Reynolds said that the UK must instead seek an "extremely ambitious" free trade agreement with the EU.

In his main speech to delegates, Starmer said:

We are also flexible as to whether the benefits of the single market are best retained by negotiating a new single market relationship or by working up from a bespoke trade deal. No rash, ideological red lines preventing a sensible deal. No fantastical, ‘blue sky’ proposals. A pragmatic approach.

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