Keir Starmer’s vow to “not diverge” from the EU was met with hostility by Tory MP Mark Spencer.
The Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries hit out at the Labour leader for his “flip-flopping” as he spoke to GB News about the Labour leader’s apparent undermining of the 2016 Brexit referendum result.
“We need to embrace that, make the most of it as we are doing and stop looking backwards as the Labour Party appear to want to do.
“We’ve got to acknowledge democracy happened. The country voted to leave the EU, the Prime Minister is delivering that Brexit and now we are an independent country separate from the EU.
“We can still trade from them and cooperate with them, but on our own terms.
“To keep obsessing as the Labour Party do over Brexit and looking back with pink tinted spectacles and talking about following their rules just takes us back in time.”
Mark Spencer spoke on Keir Starmer's hopes to draw Britain into a closer EU relationship
Starmer’s comments were a divergence from his previously ploy of exercising caution in discussing his vision for what the UK’s relationship with the bloc might look should he gain power at the next general election.
Speaking at an international summit of politicians such as Justin Trudeau, Starmer gave more insight into what he hopes to achieve.
“Most of the conflict with the UK being outside of the (EU) arises insofar as the UK wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners,” he said.
“Obviously the more we share values, the more we share a future together, the less the conflict, and actually, different ways of solving problems become available.
Tory minister Mark Spencer spoke on GB News
“Actually we don’t want to diverge, we don’t want to lower standards, we don’t want to rip up environmental standards, working standards for people that work, food standards and all the rest of it.
“Suddenly you’re in a space where notwithstanding the obvious fact that we are outside the EU and not in the EEA, there’s a lot more common ground than you might think.”
Returning to the EU’s single market or customs union is said to be a red line for Labour, with the party adding that it has no intention of putting the country in the position where it is a “rule-taker”.
Starmer’s comments have reignited the Brexit debate regardless, with Tory ministers latching onto the remarks as a potential dividing line between the Opposition and Government.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on X: “Keir voted remain. Then he backed a second referendum. Then he didn’t. Now he wants to rejoin the EU in all but name. What does Labour stand for?”
Labour sources rubbished the Conservative criticism and called on the Government to “come clean with the public on which standards they want to reduce”.
A party spokesperson said: “We don’t support dynamic alignment.
“We’re not joining the single market or the customs union.
“We will not be in a situation where we are a rule-taker.”