Labour would seek a “stronger” relationship with France if voted in at the next election, Sir Keir Starmer has said, amid moves from his party towards increased closeness with Europe.
The Labour leader met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday, accompanied by shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, in what marked the final leg of a stretch of international visits.
Starmer told reporters after the meeting that he was “very pleased with the outcome” and that talks were “very constructive and positive,” but did not provide further detail.
The pair exchanged gifts — reportedly an Arsenal football shirt from Starmer to the French leader, and cufflinks from Macron to the leader of the opposition.
“We had a very constructive and positive meeting, which as you can imagine, covered a wide range of issues,” Starmer told journalists in France.
“It was my first opportunity to say how much I value the relationship between our two countries, particularly when it comes to prosperity and security and how, if we are privileged enough to be elected into power, intend to build on that relationship and make it even stronger than it is today.”
He added: “We had a very political discussion covering a lot of issues to do with global politics but also it was that opportunity to look at future prosperity, future security, some of the most pressing issues on my mind, on the president’s mind.”
The Labour leader also held discussions with businesses during his visit. In a tweet, Starmer wrote: “Pleasure to speak with French business leaders this morning.
“My Labour government will provide the economic stability needed for international business to invest in the UK. When business thrives, we all do.”
It comes after Starmer and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper last week outlined their plans to tackle criminal gangs facilitating small boat crossings from the continent.
Meanwhile, Starmer also suggested the party could be open to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the European Union, a move which prompted think tank the UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE) to warn the party’s announcement may risk “inflaming tensions”.
Conservative immigration minister Robert Jenrick also accused the Labour leader of refusing to “rule out a bespoke EU deal in which he’d open the door to Europe’s illegal migrants”.
The trip marked the final event in a spate of engagements overseas, including a visit to Europol HQ in The Hague with Cooper, and attending a progressive leaders summit in Montreal, Canada, where he met with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.