A strong and connected country

Keir Starmer and David Lammy walking side by side in front of the German Reichstag parliament building.

How Labour will deliver a strong and connected country:

  • Unshakeable commitment to NATO and national security
  • Standing up for our armed forces and veterans
  • New trade agreements
  • The UK leading a Clean Power Alliance
  • Modernise international development

With Labour, the UK will once again be strong on the world stage, confident in the pursuit of our national interest, progressive but realistic about the challenges we face. We will reconnect with allies and forge new partnerships to deliver security and prosperity at home and abroad.

The world has been growing more volatile and insecure. War has returned to Europe for the first time in a generation, there is devastating violence in the Middle East, rapid technological change and the climate crisis are fuelling geopolitical tensions, and malign actors are seeking to divide us.

This darkening global landscape demands a strong and connected UK.

Instead, chaotic Conservative foreign policy has weakened our alliances, squandered our climate leadership – a huge diplomatic opportunity – and undermined our reputation as upholders of the international rule of law. At home, the Conservatives’ attacks on our globally respected institutions – universities, courts and the BBC – have undermined our soft power, traditionally a source of great strength, and diminished our influence. The SNP’s hubris and failure to deliver on issues such as climate change has undermined Scotland’s reputation internationally.

This failure on the international stage has cost the Scottish people. We are less secure, with families exposed to high energy bills and food prices as a result.

Labour will turn the page and reverse this, reinvigorating alliances and forging new partnerships. Our commitment to NATO as the cornerstone of European and global security is unshakeable. We will be confident in our status outside of the EU, but a leading nation in Europe once again, with an improved and ambitious relationship with our European partners. We will once again be a good partner for international development, and a defender of the international rule of law. And we will return to the forefront of climate action by creating the green jobs of the future at home and driving forward the energy transition on the global stage, with Scotland at the centre.

We will once again be a reliable partner, a dependable ally, and a good neighbour. An optimistic country at the start of an era of renewal.

The UK and Scotland are always stronger when we work with others. The United States is an indispensable ally for the UK. Our special relationship is crucial for security and prosperity, and transcends whatever political parties and individuals are in office. We will continue to work with the United States on the basis of our shared values and common interests including economic co-operation, defence and intelligence.

We recognise how damaging the thin Brexit deal done by the Conservatives has been for Scottish businesses and communities. Labour will not reopen the divisions of the past. The UK will stay outside of the EU. But we must resolve the mess left by the Conservatives if we are to seize the opportunities ahead and make Brexit work. There will be no return to the single market, the customs union, or freedom of movement; but Labour will reset the relationship and deepen ties with our European friends, neighbours and allies.

We will work to improve the UK’s trade and investment relationship with the EU, by tearing down unnecessary barriers to trade, reducing red tape for Scotland’s major exporters. We will seek to negotiate a veterinary agreement to prevent unnecessary border checks and help tackle the cost of food; will help our touring artists; and secure a mutual recognition agreement for professional qualifications to help open up markets for UK service exporters.

A UK Labour government will seek a new ambitious UK-EU security pact to strengthen co-operation on the threats we face. We will rebuild relationships with key European allies, including France and Germany, through increased defence and security cooperation. We will seek new bilateral agreements and closer working with Joint Expeditionary Force partners. This will strengthen NATO and keep the UK safe.

Multilateral institutions remain indispensable, but they are struggling under the strain of new global challenges. Labour will work with allies to build, strengthen and reform these institutions. We will use the UK’s unique position in NATO, the UN, G7, G20 and the Commonwealth to address the threats we face and to uphold human rights and international law. Only as part of the UK is Scotland’s voice heard at all these top tables. Labour values international law because of the security it brings. Under Labour, the UK will unequivocally remain a member of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Labour’s first duty in government will be to keep the country safe. We will launch a Strategic Defence Review to assess the threats we face and the capabilities needed to address them. At the heart of our security are the men and women who serve and risk their lives for this country. The next UK Labour government will strengthen support for our armed forces communities by establishing an independent Armed Forces Commissioner and putting the Armed Forces Covenant fully into law. Where the Covenant covers devolved areas, Scottish Labour believes it should also be put on a statutory basis in Scotland. We will also scrap visa fees for non-UK veterans who have served for four or more years and their dependents. In Scotland, Scottish Labour will work to ensure veterans have access to the mental health, employment, and housing support they need.

Strengthening our security requires a long-term partnership with our domestic defence industry. UK Labour will bring forward a defence industrial strategy, aligning our security and economic priorities. We will ensure a strong defence sector across the whole of the UK. We will establish long-term partnerships between business and government, promote innovation, and improve resilience. We will prioritise UK businesses for defence investment and reform procurement to reduce waste. Labour will support industry to benefit from export opportunities, in line with a robust arms export regime committed to upholding international law.

Strengthening our defences also requires stronger leadership, clearer accountability, faster delivery, less waste and better value for money. Labour will establish a fully functioning military strategic headquarters and armaments director to create a strong defence centre capable of leading the UK in meeting the increasing threats we face.

With a UK Labour government, our military, financial, diplomatic and political support for Ukraine will remain steadfast. Labour will support efforts to hold Putin’s Russia to account for its illegal war, backing calls for a Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression. We will work with our allies to enable the seizure and repurposing of frozen Russian state assets to support Ukraine. And we will play a leading role in providing Ukraine with a clear path to NATO membership.

Labour will also work with our allies and international financial centres to tackle corruption and money laundering, including here at home and in British Overseas Territories.

Labour is fully committed to AUKUS, the trilateral security partnership with Australia and the United States. We will ensure it delivers its full economic as well as security potential, increasing jobs and investment in communities across the UK.

After 14 years of damaging Conservative inconsistency over China, Labour will bring a long-term and strategic approach to managing our relations. We will co-operate where we can, compete where we need to, and challenge where we must. We will improve the UK’s capability to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities China poses through an audit of our bilateral relationship. We will always act in our interests and defend our sovereignty and our democratic values. We will stand with and support members of the Hong Kong community who have relocated to the UK.

Defending our security also means protecting the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, including the Falklands and Gibraltar. Labour will always defend their sovereignty and right to self-determination.

UK Labour’s first mission in government will be to grow our economy. This will be at the heart of everything we do, including our foreign policy. We will use our diplomatic network to attract foreign direct investment into Scotland and the rest of the UK, expand markets for exporters, and shape emerging regulatory frameworks.

Scotland and the UK are proud trading nations and flourishing international business is a vital part of our plan for growth Openness to trade allows our firms to grow and delivers greater choice and value for consumers. Rather than prioritising insubstantial agreements which do not bring meaningful benefits to the UK, a Westminster Labour government will seek targeted trade agreements aligned with our industrial strategy and economic strengths, to bring prosperity to communities across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

UK Labour will publish a trade strategy and use every lever available to get business the access it needs to international markets. This will promote the highest standards when it comes to food production. As well as striking new free trade agreements, Labour will seek to negotiate standalone sector deals, such as digital, or mutual recognition agreements, to promote our services exports.

We will lead international discussions to modernise trade rules and agreements so they work for the UK, promoting deeper trade and co-operation including through the World Trade Organisation and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. UK Labour supports implementation of the OECD global minimum rate of corporate taxation and backs international efforts to make sure multinational tech companies pay their fair share of tax.

UK Labour will build and strengthen modern partnerships with allies and regional powers. We will seek a new strategic partnership with India, including a free trade agreement, as well as deepening co-operation in areas like security, education, technology and climate change. We will deepen our co-operation with partners across the Gulf on regional security, energy and trade and investment.

Recognising the growing political and economic importance of African countries, we will deliver a new approach to the continent to foster opportunities for mutual long-term benefit.

We cannot address the urgency of the climate and nature crisis without co-ordinated global action. A failure to act will cause environmental devastation, fuelling displacement, conflict and famine. By being climate leaders at home, including meeting our agreed targets at both Scottish and UK levels, Labour will restore the strong global leadership needed to tackle the climate crisis.

International allies and competitors have already recognised the opportunities and are racing ahead, investing in new technology and creating the jobs of the future. COP26 in Glasgow presented the chance for us to show leadership on the world stage and make historic progress in tackling climate change, but the Conservatives squandered the opportunity that came with the UK’s presidency. Labour will move faster by working together with our international partners, especially those at the forefront of the climate crisis, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the COP30 hosts, Brazil.

A UK Labour government will create a new Clean Power Alliance, bringing together a coalition of countries at the cutting edge of climate action. This will help to deliver lower energy bills while accelerating the energy transition and protecting and enhancing clean energy supply chains.

Keir Starming talking to Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the D-Day commemoration ceremony in France.

Labour will strengthen the UK’s influence abroad, defending our national interests, promoting progressive values and protecting UK nationals.

Our diplomatic leadership is bolstered by the soft power of our world-leading cultural institutions. Rather than running these institutions down, we will work across government to bring leading creative and cultural institutions together to increase the UK’s international clout. And we will work with our proud diaspora communities to enhance our cultural links across the world.

Long-term peace and security in the Middle East will be an immediate focus. Labour will continue to push for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages, the upholding of international law, and a rapid increase of aid into Gaza. Palestinian statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people. It is not in the gift of any neighbour and is also essential to the long-term security of Israel. We are committed to recognising a Palestinian state as a contribution to a renewed peace process which results in a two-state solution with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.

Labour will also strengthen support for UK nationals abroad. We will introduce a new right to consular assistance in cases of human rights violations.

A Department for International Development logistician and Swissport staff member standing in front of a plane on a runway carring a consignment of surplus medical supplies bound for Beirut at Luton Airport

With previous Labour governments, the UK gained world-leading expertise in international development, with the aim of making the world a safer, more prosperous place. Under the Conservatives, this capacity has been degraded, and as a result the UK has lost influence.

Labour will turn the page to rebuild our reputation on international development with a new approach based on genuine respect and partnership with the global South to support our common interests.

To counter the growing influence of malign actors and boost efforts to combat threats like climate change, the UK’s development work must be closely aligned with our foreign policy aims, co-ordinated to tackle global poverty, instability, and the climate and nature crisis. Our mission statement will be ‘to create a world free from poverty on a liveable planet’ as a signal of our commitment to greater multilateral action, and our intention to lead on this agenda.

Regaining the UK’s global leadership on development is a key part of our plan to reconnect with our allies and partners. Labour will strengthen international development work within the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. We will renew expertise and focus, especially in priority areas such as supporting economic transformation, tackling unsustainable debt, empowering women and girls, supporting conflict prevention, and unlocking climate finance.

We are proud that Scotland is a Fair Trade nation. Although international development is reserved, Scottish Labour introduced a voluntary contribution from Scotland and we believe all international development spending by the Scottish Government must be in line with strategic goals.

At a UK level we are committed to restoring development spending at the level of 0.7 per cent of gross national income as soon as fiscal circumstances allow. We will deliver value for money for taxpayers by working closely with the Independent Commission for Aid Impact to apply the highest standards to our aid spend – bringing in robust measures of development effectiveness, transparency, and scrutiny.