Keir Starmer has committed to pursuing a major rewrite of the Brexit deal with the EU if Labour is elected, citing his responsibility to his children and future generations.
As the Labour leader begins to unveil his blueprint for power if the party wins the next general election, he told the Financial Times he would seek a closer trading relationship with Brussels when the agreement negotiated by then-prime minister Boris Johnson comes up for review in 2025.
“Almost everyone recognises the deal Johnson struck is not a good deal – it’s far too thin,” Starmer said. “As we go into 2025 we will attempt to get a much better deal for the UK.”
Starmer made the comments in Canada at a conference of centre-left leaders, the Global Progress Action Summit, in Montreal, where he had a bilateral meeting with the country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau. The trip is part of a wider tour of the international stage: Starmer visited The Hague last week and will arrive in Paris to see the French president, Emmanuel Macron, on Tuesday.
The Labour leader said there is “more that can be achieved across the board” between the UK and EU in a revised deal – on business, veterinary compliance, professional services, security, innovation, research and other areas. He ruled out rejoining the EU, the customs union and the single market.
Johnson’s deal is up for review in 2025 but the process is seen more by Brussels as an ironing-out procedure. European appetite for renegotiating a deal that commenced in 2021 is uncertain.
“We have to make it work,” Starmer told the paper. “That’s not a question of going back in. But I refuse to accept that we can’t make it work. I think about those future generations when I say that.
“I say that as a dad. I’ve got a 15-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. I’m not going to let them grow up in a world where all I’ve got to say to them about their future is, it’s going to be worse than it might otherwise have been. I’ve got an utter determination to make this work.”
His comments join other recent interventions in which the leader – who has frustrated some for being tight-lipped – has started to outline what Starmer’s Britain might look like, as Labour begins to plan for power.
The party is consistently polling above the Conservatives. Last week Starmer sat down to dinner with union leaders gathered for the Trades Union Congress, with one official present summing up Starmer’s message as “eyes on the prize”.
In Paris on Tuesday, Macron and Starmer are expected to discuss post-Brexit relations, as well as a potential returns agreement with the EU to stop people travelling across the Channel in dangerously small boats.