Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to push for a major rewrite of Britain’s Brexit deal in 2025 if Labor wins the next general election. He says he owes it to his children to rebuild relations with the EU.
Starmer told the Financial Times he would put a closer trading relationship with Brussels and a new partnership with the business community at the heart of his efforts to boost British economic growth.
Britain’s trade and cooperation deal with the EU, negotiated by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is due for a review in 2025 and Starmer said he saw this as an “important” moment to reset relations.
“Almost everyone recognizes that the deal Johnson has made is not a good deal – it is far too poor,” he said in an interview. “As we move into 2025, we will look to get a much better deal for Britain.”
Starmer spoke at a conference of centre-left leaders in Montreal. The trip was part of an attempt by the Labor leader, whose party currently enjoys a typical polling lead of 15 to 20 percent over the governing Conservatives, to present himself as a future prime minister.
On Saturday he held talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and on Tuesday he will travel to Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, in which post-Brexit relations will play an important role.
Starmer has already said he wants to improve the Brexit deal by striking a veterinary deal with the EU – reducing heavy border controls on animals and food – along with an agreement on the recognition of professional qualifications.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Global Progress Action conference this weekend, he said: “I think more can be achieved across the board.”
He spoke of closer ties in areas such as security, innovation and research; Some Labor figures have spoken of efforts to improve youth mobility and closer energy cooperation. But Starmer reiterated his decision to rule out a return to the customs union, the single market or the EU itself.
Asked whether he would try to remove friction on other forms of trade, he said: “I think we can also have a closer trading relationship. That is the subject of further discussion.”
It is far from clear whether the EU would want to renegotiate the trade deal, which only came into force in 2021, especially if Britain selectively chose only parts of the single market. Many in Brussels see the 2025 review merely as a clean-up exercise.
But Starmer said: “We have to make it work. That’s not a matter of going back inside. But I refuse to accept that we can’t make it work. When I say that, I think of future generations.
“I say that as a father. I have a 15-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. I’m not going to let them grow up in a world where the only thing I can say to them about their future is that it will be worse than it might otherwise have been. I am determined to make this work.”
Separately, Starmer said his plans for funding the party’s wider economic program would not require new taxes on the wealthy.
“We haven’t had significant growth in thirteen years,” he says. “We have to turn that around. It is a mistake of principle to consider taxes instead of growth as the first priority.”