SIR Keir Starmer has insisted “there is no going back into the EU” or single market but that he would seek an improved relationship with the bloc if he became Prime Minister.
The Labour leader, who campaigned for remain in the 2016 vote, underlined his party’s current position in an interview with the BBC earlier today.
He said Labour would seek a closer trading relationship than in the deal negotiated by Boris Johnson’s government and would doing so ease tensions in Northern Ireland over the protocol, which the DUP and other hardline unionist parties in the region oppose. He also said he would seek greater security co-operation with the EU if he became Prime Minister.
The Labour chief argued that the deal struck by the Conservative government “wasn’t good” and was “damaging the economy.”
He said: “Of course we will need to repair that, there’s no going back into the EU. There’s no going back into the single market. But I do think there is a case for a closer trading relationship with Europe and I absolutely think there is a case for fixing the protocol in Northern Ireland.
“I absolutely think there is a case for closer co-operation on security. So there are things we can do to improve the situation we are in but that doesn’t mean going back into the EU and it doesn’t mean going back into the single market.”
Asked on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme whether the UK would “always be poorer” outside the single market, Sir Keir said: “No, so long as we improve upon the deal we’ve got, I don’t accept that.
“What people desperately want going into the election is to feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that things can get better.
“I would also add this. The economy has not grown significantly for 13 years – that has been an absolute failure of this Government.
“So even before Brexit, we had a failure under this Tory Government with our economy. I’m determined that we will fix that.”
His insistence on not going back into the EU may disappoint voters in Scotland, 62 per cent of whom voted remaining in Europe in 2016.
Since then support for returning has increased with support currently around 72 per cent.
Labour’s opposition to the UK renewing EU membership has been seized on by the SNP.
In recent months Nicola Sturgeon’s party has stepped up its attack on Labour over its EU position, arguing the only way for Scots to return to the bloc is by backing independence and by Scotland as an independent country joining the EU.
The SNP has sought to portray Labour having a similar pro-Brexit stance as the Conservatives.
Labour needs to win back voters in parts of the north of England which backed Brexit if it is to win power at the next general election expected in 2024.