KEIR Starmer has been called out for “bluff and bluster” over his apparently shifting stance on relations with the EU.
Earlier this week, the Labour leader indicated wanting a closer relationship with the EU on border security and told the Financial Times he wanted to renegotiate parts of the Brexit deal.
But he has reportedly rejected plans backed by the French and German governments which would create new levels of integration with the EU, said to have been pitched as an attempt to woo Labour into accepting closer relations if the party wins the next election.
According to the i newspaper, a Labour source rejected out of hand the French and German pitch, which would see the UK aligning more closely with the EU while not re-joining the single market.
They were said to have described the plans as a “non-starter”.
A Labour spokesperson told the paper: “Labour will seek a better deal for Britain.
“This does not involve any form of membership.”
The paper reported the plan is described as one of “concentric circles” or “Macron’s onion”, which would see a core group of countries like France and Germany at the centre pledging to work towards an “ever closer union” with the further away circles representing looser ties.
According to a diagram published in the i, the UK currently sits at the outermost ring, which represents members of the European Political Community, established last year.
Starmer’s European policy is the subject of much speculation as the prospect of a General Election looms closer.
The Labour leader’s border policy, unveiled in The Sun last week, would see the UK co-operating much more closely with the EU, something his Eurosceptic critics say would make Britain beholden to Brussels’ rules again.
And he told the Financial Times earlier this week he intended to attempt to renegotiate key parts of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement – the terms of Brexit – when the deal with the EU comes up for review in 2025.
But Anthony Salamone, the head of think tank European Merchants told The National the review was not a mechanism for substantially reworking the Brexit deal and EU leaders would not be keen to open it up to major changes.
'Labour will continue Brexit'
Alyn Smith, the SNP’s EU spokesperson, said Starmer’s EU policies showed Labour must support rejoining the trading bloc to “reverse the damage dealt by Brexit”.
He said: “For all his bluff and bluster about renegotiation and getting a better deal, the future under a Keir Starmer Labour Government is clear – a continuation of Brexit and the immeasurable damage it has dealt to our economy.
“If Keir Starmer was serious about offering change in opposition to this dreadful Tory Government he’d recognise that the only way to grow the economy and reverse the damage dealt by Brexit is to rejoin the EU.
“But, as with too many other issues, he remains wedded to the Tory policies that have wreaked havoc on the UK and have forced Scots to pay a heavy price for a Brexit they voted overwhelmingly against.
“At the next election, only the SNP are offering a return to the world’s largest single market – a market six times larger than the UK – and the rights EU membership affords us, with independence for Scotland.”
The Scottish Greens described Labour’s EU policy as a “shambles”.
Gillian Mackay, an MSP for Central Scotland, said: “It was only two days ago that Sir Keir Starmer was telling us that he would renegotiate with the EU and do things differently, but his plans have already fallen at the first hurdle.
"From the fundamentals of our economy to our right to live, love, study and travel in 27 other countries, Brexit has damaged everything it’s touched.
“The Labour leader knows that better than anyone, he led the campaign to reverse it.
"On Brexit and so much else, Labour is a shambles. Every day that a disastrous Tory Brexit is allowed to endure will make it even harder to go rejoin.
"That is why more and more people are seeing that our only realistic route back into Europe is with the powers of an independent country.”