Keir Starmer speech at Chatham House: ‘What next for Britain?’
Starmer MP, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, speaking at
Chatham House, said:
a little over 48 hours’ time, the Prime Minister will inform the European
Council that the UK intends to leave the EU.
will signal the start of the most complex and important set of negotiations
undertaken by any British Government since the end of World War II.
House has seen many debates over the years, but perhaps none as significant for
our own country in recent history.
June 23 last year, the Prime Minister has made a number of decisions reflecting
her interpretation of the referendum vote.
Some options – like
single market membership – have been discounted.
Others – like a
Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement or indeed no deal at all – have been talked
These are not the only
options, yet, instead of welcoming scrutiny and debate, Brexiteer Ministers and
their supporters have demanded obedience to their own particular version of
Reasonable questions are
dismissed as evidence of unreasonable denial.
Challenge is branded as
frustrating the will of the people.
But on the eve of the
triggering of Article 50, I am here today to say that I, and the Labour Party,
will hold the Government to account and provide an alternative vision of our
place in Europe.
June 23 last year
answered one question but opened up many more – particularly about the UK’s
future relationship with Europe.
Indeed the terms of
Article 50 itself anticipates both a departure and a future framework.
What that future
framework looks like matters profoundly to our prosperity, our security and our
influence as a country in the years ahead.
While Labour did not
support leaving the European Union and I campaigned passionately against it, we
have accepted that that choice was made and that it will now be delivered.
That is why we voted in
Parliament for Article 50 to be triggered.
I believe to have done
otherwise would have diverted the debate and let the Government off the hook by
allowing it to continually focus on the outcome of the referendum vote rather
than the proper interpretation of the mandate.
The debate this week
moves on from the rhetoric of aspiration to the reality of negotiation.
In a previous time,
Labour, then in Government, set out five tests around joining the euro that
proved a rigorous mechanism to uphold our national interest.
Today I set out the
tests against which we shall judge the deal negotiated by the British
Government over the next 24 months.
a moment of this magnitude it is essential that our response reflects core
British values which we have long cherished in the Labour Party but which are
rooted in the everyday life of communities up and down the country.
reaching out to Europe and the rest of the world rather than turning inwards.
solidarity; and a belief that we achieve more together than we do alone.
unflinching commitment to protect the fundamentals that make us proud to live
in this country – human rights, workplace rights, our environment and the rule
belief that our economy and broader society should be based on principles of
fairness, equality and social justice.
that prosperity, power and opportunity must be shared in all regions and
nations of the country.
we exit the EU, there is no reason to abandon these core beliefs.
these values can be the basis of a progressive and unifying response to Brexit.
that recognises we are leaving the EU, but not leaving the family of European
states; and that both sides of the referendum debate must have a stake in
shaping Britain’s future.
are the values that underpin the six tests I set out today.
need to make the case for a collaborative and co-operative future relationship
with the EU.
a member of the EU, but a partnership alongside it.
partnership based on shared values, common aims and mutual benefit.
vision based on our core values as a country, a vision to challenge the
regressive and isolationist world view that has come into sharp focus in recent
is why my first key test for the final Brexit deal is this:
it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?
matters for the UK and it matters to the EU, who are looking to us as natural
allies in light of the changed and volatile nature of global politics.
rise of right-wing populism across parts of Europe, the resurgence of
authoritarianism in Russia and nationalism in the US all threaten core
progressive values – human rights, the rule of law, vital social and economic
protections, and support for multilateral institutions.
the European Commission recently warned ‘…the return of isolationism has cast
doubts over the future of international trade and multilateralism. Europe’s
prosperity and ability to uphold our values on the world stage will continue to
depend on its openness and strong links with its partners.’
This is a point that has
been underscored in my recent visits to Brussels and in numerous meetings with
ambassadors and politicians across Europe.
is not the time for Britain to turn away from our closest neighbours and those
who share our core values.
is the time to recommit to our values of internationalism, cooperation and
belief in multinational solutions to complex challenges.
there is a worrying and increasingly powerful move on the Government benches to
sever our links with Europe.
is the authentic voice of the Brexiteers.
who have argued for decades that exiting the EU offers a once in a generation
chance for Britain to extricate herself from the entire European social and
economic model: employment rights, environmental protections, fair corporate
tax rates, investment in public services such as the NHS.
a small minority in the Conservative Party, the Brexiteers are now in office
and in power.
ideologically driven approach to Brexit would be disastrous and divisive.
it would stand as a road block to continued cooperation in the important fields
of technology, research, medicine, security, science, arts and culture.
Prime Minister needs to face down these Brexiteers who would distance us from
the clearest way for her to do so would be to agree a strong and collaborative
future relationship with the EU not just reflected in comprehensive trading
arrangements but also reflected in fields such as science, medicine, education,
technology, research, counter-terrorism and so much else.
on the question of trade, let us be clear.
all the talk about hypothetical trade deals in new markets, the nature and
strength of any future EU-UK trade deal must be the Government’s priority.
percent of UK exports go to the EU, making the EU by far the UK’s largest
contrast, India accounts for 1.7 percent of UK exports, Australia 1.7 percent,
Canada 1.2 percent and New Zealand approximately 0.2 percent.
it is important for Britain to be a global trading nation.
terms of jobs and the future of our economy, the trade deal that matters most
is the deal we reach with the EU.
why the Prime Minister’s choice to give up on membership of the Single Market
and the Customs Union is a significant risk.
that retaining Single Market membership as a non-EU country is fraught with
difficulties and that views in the Labour Party about this differ.
differences over form should not mask the near universal consensus in the
Labour Party that the key attributes of the Single Market must be retained.
are: continued tariff-free trade for UK businesses with the EU; no additional
bureaucratic burdens or divergence from the EU market; continued
competitiveness for goods and services; and no drop in existing workplace
conversations I have had with hundreds of businesses and trade union members in
recent months, it is clear there is widespread consensus on this.
these objectives can best be achieved through re-writing the terms of the EEA
or via a bespoke trade agreement is frankly secondary to the outcome. What
matters is that jobs, the economy and living standards do not suffer as a
result of Brexit.
brings me to my second key test:
it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the
Single Market and Customs Union?
is of course, the clear commitment that David Davis has given in the House of
Commons; to deliver “…a comprehensive free trade agreement and a comprehensive
customs agreement that will deliver the exact same benefits as we [currently]
“exact same benefits” is an exacting standard.
it is one the Government has made.
it is one we will hold them to.
to deliver this deal will lie squarely at the Government’s door.
the biggest danger currently facing British businesses, jobs and living
standards is the chance of the Prime Minister exiting the EU without a deal.
is the worst of all possible outcomes.
is, in the words of the Director General of the CBI, a ‘recipe for chaos’. And
as the Mayor of London said: “the Prime Minister’s assertion that ‘no deal is
better than a bad deal for Britain’ fundamentally underestimates the colossal
damage that….it would have on Britain’s economy.”
is why the Foreign Secretary was so very misguided when he said it would be “no
problem” for the UK to exit without a deal.
would, as David Davis confirmed just last week, mean tariffs of 30-40 percent
on dairy and meat producers, 10 percent tariffs on cars and a loss of
passporting rights for financial services.
Prime Minister should end this unnecessary uncertainty now by committing to
establish appropriate transitional arrangements starting on 29 March 2019 and
lasting until a full and collaborative EU-UK treaty can be agreed.
Yet the Prime Minister
repeatedly ducks this issue.
The most alarming
passage in her Lancaster House speech was the pledge to negotiate within two
years, not only the Article 50 agreement, but also a new free trade agreement
and everything else required to govern future relations on security, research,
migration, energy and so on.
The reality is that it
will take much longer than that: if all goes well, two years could allow for
the completion of the Article 50 deal and a sketch of the future EU-UK relationship
with transitional arrangements.
the right deal is better than a quick deal.
the right deal, clear priorities matter.
as many years as I can remember it has always been the case that the Prime
Minister – of whatever party – would put national security first, and after
that would always be the economy and jobs.
or wider issues – important though they unquestionably are – would never be
given priority over the economy and jobs.
that is precisely what this Prime Minister has done.
I have argued before, exiting the EU will mean the entire immigration system
needs to be reformed. But doing so should not be at the cost of jobs and the
bring me to my third test for the final Brexit deal:
it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and
the vast majority of the British public, I believe in a sensible, reasonable
approach to immigration and our proud record of supporting refugees.
benefits of immigration are obvious and should be celebrated.
these are not always distributed evenly across different parts of the country,
the economy or society.
is why I believe in fair and effective management of migration.
we leave the EU, that core belief remains.
recognise there must be a new approach to immigration that has the consent of
the British people and is managed in their interests.
need to ensure that the costs and benefits are more fairly distributed, and are
seen to be so.
final Brexit deal must contribute to this.
Britain cannot succeed in the 21st century if we are a closed
succeeds when it engages with the world, rather than retreating from it.
approach that prioritises immigration control above all else must be resisted
because it will mean a weaker economy, an impoverished society and a
self-defeating isolation mentality.
first test of this will be the agreement the Prime Minister must reach to
protect the rights of EU nationals already in the UK, and UK nationals living
in the EU. Those that have made the UK their home are our friends, our
neighbours and our colleagues. They do not just ‘contribute’ to our society,
they are our society.
Prime Minister has repeatedly rejected efforts in the House of Commons to
guarantee the rights of EU national before negotiations begin – despite the
overwhelming case for doing so.
must now deliver a reciprocal deal on EU and UK citizens at the earliest
turn now to my fourth key test for Brexit:
it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?
of the main reasons I campaigned to stay in the EU was because of the important
impact the EU has had on enshrining common workplace standards and protections.
include access to paid holiday leave, parental leave, and equal treatment
rights for part-time and agency workers.
rights didn’t come from Europe alone – they were hard fought by trade unions
and the labour movement.
crucially, their application across the whole of the single market means
British workers have not been in a race to the bottom with their counterparts
strong, fair and robust workplace rights is in Labour’s DNA.
is in our country’s DNA.
the EU must not be used as a pretext for rolling back these rights or weakening
hard fought protections.
major battle over EU-derived rights – which are of course far wider that
workplace rights and extend to consumer and human rights as well as
environmental protections – will take place through the Great Repeal Bill.
will be a hugely complex task.
the House of Commons Library conclude, it is likely to be ‘one of the largest
legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK’. It is estimated that within
just one Government Department – DEFRA – 80 percent of legislation will be
affected by withdrawal from the EU.
is highly likely that there will be attempts to use this Bill as a tool to
weaken existing rights.
there has been talk of ‘sunset clauses’ being introduced that would mean
EU-derived rights could lapse after five years.
will strongly oppose this.
will emphasise that all consumer rights and environmental protections derived
from EU law should be fully protected—without qualifications, limitations or
fifth test for the final Brexit deal is:
it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?
worked with Theresa May when I was DPP and she was Home Secretary, I do not
doubt her commitment to ensuring public safety and tackling terrorism.
calm, measured and authoritative response to the horrific attack on Westminster
last week served to underline this.
also recognises that the EU has been vital in helping improve cross-border
efforts to prevent serious organised crime.
Theresa May’s only intervention during the referendum campaign was to say that
if the UK was to leave the EU “we would not be as safe as if we Remain”.
yet, nine months on from the referendum, we have had no clarity on how the
Prime Minister now plans to ensure this quite understandable concern is not
example, will Britain remain a member of Europol and Eurojust – two agencies I
have worked closely with in the past and know are absolutely vital to tackling
cross-border crime. If we are not to remain members, what alternative
arrangements will the Prime Minister seek to put in place to ensure there is no
drop in capability?
Britain retain the European Arrest Warrant? It was Theresa May herself who said
during the campaign that: “outside
the EU, we would have no access to the European Arrest Warrant, which has
allowed us to extradite more than 5,000 people from Britain to Europe in the
last five years, and bring 675 suspected or convicted wanted individuals to
Britain to face justice. It has been used to get terror suspects out of
the country and bring terrorists back here to face justice.”
Having worked on many cases where I saw firsthand how
important the EAW was, I find it deeply worrying that the Prime Minister is yet
to resolve even these most fundamental questions.
The Government White Paper says simply that: “…we
will look to negotiate the best deal we can with the EU to cooperate in the
fight against crime and terrorism”
this is nowhere near good enough. We know that crime and terrorism know no
EU also plays an important role in our wider security.
we should set a more exacting standard: does the final Brexit deal ensure there
is no diminution in Britain’s national security or ability to tackle
sixth and final test for the Brexit deal is:
it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK?
referendum campaign was very divisive. The aftermath saw a shocking rise in
hate crime, violence and intolerance.
my Bloomberg Speech in December I warned that a new fracture was developing in
our politics. That the country was more divided than at any time in my life.
lies with the Prime Minister to bring the country together, not drive to it
the Prime Minister has been unable to gain the confidence of the governments of
Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland as she prepares to trigger Article 50.
Welsh First Minister warned last week that the Prime Minister had a ‘tin ear’
on devolution and that the legitimate and pressing concerns of the Welsh
Government were not being listened to.
Prime Minister’s failure to engage with the Scottish Government or to recognise
specific and particular concerns has provided an excuse for the SNP to press
ahead with its divisive call for a second referendum and the break-up of
is, I fear, becoming the defining characteristic of the way that this Prime
Minister is conducting this process.
closed, unable to build a consensus or form alliances.
of being open and willing to listen to differing views on incredibly complex
issues, she has retreated into Government by mantra.
deal is better than a bad deal’.
phrases designed to shut out dialogue.
result has been increased dislocation between Westminster and the rest of the
country – precisely at a time when we need a new settlement to unite
communities across the UK.
is why the Mayor of London was right in his recent White Paper when he called
for a fundamental shift in the Government’s approach to devolution so that:
“… as powers and funding are transferred from Brussels, the government’s
default position should be a presumption of devolution…unless a compelling case
for yet further centralisation in Whitehall can be made”.
would be a far more progressive, unifying vision of post-Brexit Britain.
do not underestimate the difficulty of the task the Prime Minister is about to
the contrary, I know this is going to be fiendishly difficult.
of us want the best for Britain.
the stakes are high and the Prime Minister’s approach so far does not bode
I have set out the values that should drive Britain’s response to Brexit.
the tests Labour will set for the final Brexit deal.
build on the economic red lines set out last year by the Shadow Chancellor.
to meet those tests will affect how Labour votes in the House of Commons.
me be clear: Labour will not support a deal that fails to reflect core British
values and the six tests I have set out today.
I do not want to end by returning to a stale debate on process, votes and
want to end by making one final observation:
referendum vote on June 23 was, in my view, a vote on the state of the nation.
And it was years in the making.
there were concerns about the functioning of the EU, its remoteness and the
slow pace of reform.
there was also a desire felt by people in many parts of the country that
politics and the economy no longer worked for them or their communities.
Brexiteers offered false hope that by voting to leave the EU all that would
the truth is that Brexit cannot tackle stagnant wages, resolve a chronic skills
gap, reduce unequal growth across the UK or improve underfunded public
cannot mend public trust in politics or build more cohesive communities.
it cannot provide a place for Britain in a more complex and chaotic global
need bold, ambitious and future-looking policies capable of meeting the
concerns exposed in the vote of 23 June last year.
need a profound belief that politics should not be about division but about
speaking to and for our nation.