EU pressure

Ex-Labour MEP joins call for closer ties to Europe

Sir Keir Starmer iin Edinburgh
Sir Keir Starmer is facing calls to change EU policy (pic: Terry Murden)

Labour is coming under further pressure to change its EU policy after claims that it cannot meet its growth targets without further alignment on key trading rules and the movement of people.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer and the Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves – who is visiting a wind farm in Scotland on Monday – are being urged to spell out how they plan to deliver on their manifesto pledge of securing the highest sustained economic growth of any G7 country.

This would be within tight fiscal rules, and while post-Brexit barriers to trade remain in place between the UK and EU.

The Office for Budget Responsibility says UK GDP will be around 4% lower every year than it would have been had the country remained inside the EU.

At the weekend, Sir Keir insisted  “We are not rejoining the EU, we are not rejoining the single market or the customs union.”

However, he said he still believed he could “get a better deal with the EU, and if we are elected to government that is what we will endeavour to do”.

Economists say that without access to the single market, which allows goods to cross into the EU without extra costs and paperwork, and vice versa, the UK’s economic progress will be seriously impeded.

Dimitri Zenghelis, an economist and Brexit expert at the London School of Economics (LSE), said extra barriers since 2020 had cut trade with the EU and stifled investment.

David Martin, who was the Labour Party’s longest serving Member of the European Parliament, said Labour’s ambitions for growth in the economy can only be achieved by closer alignment with the EU.

Speaking on Sunday in a Bylines Scotland podcast, Mr Martin said:” “The programme Labour has put forward for government is dependent on growth. In my view that growth cannot happen unless we get closer to Europe. It’s just not going to happen if we are outside all the European decision-making processes.”

He said realigning with Europe is a long-term process. “Things won’t happen overnight, but a new Labour government can reach early accommodations with the EU that can benefit the UK and EU.”

Mr Martin who is President of the European Movement in Scotland, the all-party pro EU organisation, cited post-Brexit rules on food safety controls that currently cost UK and European exporters £40 for every consignment passing between the UK and the EU.

He argues that having mutually agreed new food hygiene standards would cut out these costs and protect public health.

“A new accord between the UK and EU on veterinary standards would benefit farmers, food importers and exporters. Most importantly, it’s estimated that it could cut household shopping bills by around £2 a week.”

The former MEP believes the UK’s hospitality and retail sectors would benefit from the UK agreeing to the EU’s proposal to allow people between the ages of 18 and 30 the right to study or work in the UK or EU for up to four years. Labour has rejected the proposal. David Martin thinks that if Labour wins the general election, it must be open to reviewing its position on Europe.

“The EU proposal on limited free movement would be beneficial to both sides. It would give our industries a source of valuable labour.”

SNP EU Accession and Europe spokesperson Alyn Smith said: “Keir Starmer will do irreparable damage to Scotland’s economy, NHS and the cost of living by continuing to impose a hard Brexit against Scotland’s will – showing why it’s vital to vote SNP to escape Brexit and put Scotland’s interests first.”

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