Labour’s plans to seek a renegotiated Brexit deal with the European Union will require finding an “incentive” for the bloc to reopen talks, an expert has warned.
Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to seek a “much better” deal if his party wins the next general election, and said Boris Johnson’s agreement, which is up for review in 2025, is “too thin”.
It comes after former Prime Minister Theresa May said last week her Brexit deal would have been “better than Johnson’s”.
Speaking in Montreal, Canada, at a progressive leaders’ conference, Starmer told the Financial Times that he had ruled out re-joining the customs union, the single market or the EU.
But he vowed he had “utter determination” saying: “We have to make it work. That’s not a question of going back in, but I refuse to accept that we can’t make it work.”
However, while one business group welcomed Starmer’s move, experts have also warned that finding a new agreement could prove tricky and risk demanding more than the EU will give.
Richard Burge, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) chief executive, said that while it could “take years” to fully resolve the UK-EU relationship post-Brexit, “what we need right now is to cut the red tape at the border between the UK and rest of the EU”.
He said: “British businesses at present are buried under piles of paper to even export goods.
“We need to reduce the bureaucratic paperwork on goods to help with the free flow of the movement of people and goods.”
But Anand Menon, director at the UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE) thinktank, told City A.M.: “Keir Starmer’s desire to secure a better Brexit deal for the UK is all well and good.
“However, he failed to explain how tinkering with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) will make a meaningful economic difference.”
Menon added: “Moreover, he runs the risk of demanding more than the EU is willing to give. The UK is not a priority for the EU which remains relatively happy with the TCA.
“The key for a Labour government will be figuring out a way to provide the EU with an incentive to restart negotiations over Brexit”.
A UKICE report released today found using a review of the TCA to boost trade will be “very challenging” and is likely to meet “practical and political” resistance.
EU counterparts will favour a “very light, technical review”, researchers warned, and even suggested the process could “inflame tensions” over issues of implementation.
While UKICE also said Labour would need to offer the EU “something significant in return” such as improved visa arrangements for young people or enhanced security cooperation.
Research associate Joël Reland said: “If the UK wants to extract major benefits and change from the review, it needs a serious plan to get the EU to the negotiating table”.
A Conservative spokesman accused the Labour leader of changing his position, saying: “Three years ago he promised he wouldn’t seek major changes to the UK’s new relationship with the EU, but now his latest short-term position is that he will.
“What price would Keir Starmer be prepared to pay to the EU for renegotiating our relationship?”