18 September 2023

Sunak rules out new Brexit trade talks with EU after Starmer vows ‘better deal’

18 September 2023

Rishi Sunak has ruled out renegotiating the post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union after Sir Keir Starmer vowed to seek a “much better” agreement.

Downing Street said on Monday the Prime Minister would not reopen the trade and co-operation agreement (TCA) brokered with Brussels in “any way, shape or form”.

The refusal came after the Labour leader pledged to seek a closer trading relationship with the EU if his party wins the next general election as he seeks to “make Brexit work”.

Sir Keir will be holding talks with French president Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, during which post-Brexit relations are expected to feature prominently.

The trade deal signed by Boris Johnson faces its first five-yearly review in 2025, though the extent of the talks are uncertain.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Sir Keir said the existing deal is “far too thin” and Labour would “get a much better deal for the UK” in the review.

Downing Street ruled out Mr Sunak reopening the deal, insisting they were “focused on maximising the opportunities it presents us with”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’re not looking to relitigate the past or reopen it in any way, shape or form.

“Obviously there is a set statutory review period but beyond that we’re very much focused on maximising the opportunities it presents for the public.”

Labour has ruled out rejoining the customs union or single market, but Sir Keir said he was confident a better deal could be negotiated.

Sir Keir said in the interview: “Almost everyone recognises the deal Johnson struck is not a good deal – it’s far too thin.

“As we go into 2025 we will attempt to get a much better deal for the UK.

“I do think we can have a closer trading relationship as well. That’s subject to further discussion.”

Seven years on from the referendum, Keir Starmer wants to take Britain back to square one on Brexit, reopening the arguments of the past all over again

Sir Keir said he owes it to his children, 12 and 15, to improve the current terms.

“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,” he said.

“I’ve got an utter determination to make this work.”

His comments have been seized on by the Conservatives, who believe the dividing line between Sir Keir, who backed Remain, and a Brexiteer in Mr Sunak could benefit them.

A Conservative spokesman said: “Seven years on from the referendum, Keir Starmer wants to take Britain back to square one on Brexit, reopening the arguments of the past all over again.

“Keir Starmer backed Remain, then wanted a second Brexit referendum, yet now he says he accepts it.”

Sir Keir earlier said it was “complete garbage” to suggest Labour planned to join an EU-wide migrant quota scheme as part of efforts to tackle small boat crossings in the Channel.

It came after Mr Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman accused Labour of planning to let the UK become a “dumping ground” for 100,000 migrants from the EU each year.

The political row emerged when the Labour leader indicated he could be prepared to do a deal with Brussels which would involve the UK taking a quota of asylum seekers who arrive in the bloc in exchange for the ability to return people who cross the English Channel.

Sir Keir’s meeting with Mr Macron comes as the MP seeks to impose himself as a leader on the world stage. He spent the weekend meeting fellow centre-left leaders in Montreal, Canada, including the country’s prime minister Justin Trudeau.

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