Keir Starmer disputed today that entering the EU single market would improve the economy, as he sought to dispel rumours that Labour intends to reestablish relations with Brussels.
According to the party’s head, there is “no case” for a Swiss-style agreement or resuming full membership in the bloc.
However, he stressed that the present trade agreement is “not very good,” and that any administration he led would work to improve it.
Senior Labour politicians, like London mayor Sadiq Khan, have backed returning to the EU, and Sir Keir was a staunch Remain backer until Boris Johnson’s huge victory in the 2019 election.
Sir Keir conceded in a series of interviews this morning, as he released a democracy and devolution study, that although he did not support Brexit, he recognised the public’s desire to ‘regain power.’
When asked whether joining the EU would improve economic development, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘No, at this stage, I don’t think it would. And there’s no case for going back to the EU or going back into the single market.’
Sir Keir added: ‘Do I think, just to take your question head on, that going back into years of wrangling, years of uncertainty, is going to help our economy? No, I don’t.’
Pressed on whether such a move could boost growth in future, if not now, he said: ‘No, I don’t think having left … I argued for remain, as everybody knows.
‘We left, and having left, there is no case now for saying ‘go back’. And going into the single market and customs union, we’ve had this debate endlessly over the years, 2016-19, is effectively going back in.
‘I do think that we can have a deal that operates better than the deal that we have got, and that’s what I would seek to do. And that’s what I mean by making Brexit work.
‘But I do also fundamentally believe that if we don’t address the other underlying issues that have bedevilled growth in this country … then we will not actually be able to fix the problems that we’ve got.’
He said that trade has ‘gone down’ because ‘the deal we’ve got is not a very good deal.’
Rishi Sunak recently tried to debunk claims that the Conservative Government was considering a partnership with the EU akin to Switzerland’s for the next decade.
Despite not being a member of the EU, Switzerland enjoys access to the single market and is a member of the visa-free Schengen zone thanks to a number of bilateral agreements.
It also pays billions of pounds in ‘cohesion’ payments to Brussels and allows free movement.
However, after an angry outcry from Tory Brexiteers, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Mr Sunak both distanced their parties from the notion.