LONDON — Labour leader Keir Starmer suggested his party does not “want to diverge” from the European Union if it wins power in the U.K.
In his latest comments on the U.K.̵7;s post-Brexit relationship with the bloc, Starmer — whose party has a commanding lead over the governing Conservatives ahead of an expected 2024 election — said most of the “conflict” between Britain and Europe comes from the U.K. trying to “do different things to the rest of our EU partners.”
And he talked up the need for “common ground” between the two sides.
In a video clip shared by Sky News Thursday, Starmer — who was speaking at the Global Progress Action Summit in Montreal last weekend — said: “Most of the conflict with the U.K. being outside of the [EU] arises insofar as the U.K. wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners.
“Obviously the more we share values, the more we share a future together, the less the conflict,” he added. “And, actually, different ways of solving problems become available.”
Starmer went on: “Actually, we don’t want to diverge — we don’t want to lower standards, we don’t want to rip up environmental standards, working standards for people that work, food standards, and all the rest of it.”
As Labour leader, Starmer — who once campaigned for a second Brexit referendum — has been at pains to distance himself from more pro-Remain portions of his party. He has stressed that he accepts Brexit and repeatedly ruled out reversing the 2016 referendum outcome or attempting to rejoin the EU’s customs union or single market.
But in a recent interview with the Financial Times, the Labour leader committed to pursuing a significant rewrite of the U.K.-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) if Labour wins the election, arguing that the Conservatives had failed to make the most of leaving the bloc.
His latest comments were seized on by the Conservatives. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on X, formerly Twitter: “Keir voted remain. Then he backed a second referendum. Then he didn’t. Now he wants to rejoin the EU in all but name. What does Labour stand for?”