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Keir Starmer: Work is under way to improve UK’s ‘botched’ Brexit deal

Photo by Yui Mok/PA

By David Hughes and Richard Wheeler, PA

Sir Keir Starmer said work has already begun to build closer ties with the European Union following Labour’s landslide election win.

The Prime Minister said he wanted better trading and security relationships with Brussels as he vowed to rip up the “botched” deal struck by Boris Johnson.

Foreign Secretary David Lammy has already travelled to Europe for talks with key players, with a promise that the UK would be a “good neighbour” after the years of Brexit acrimony.

Speaking to reporters in Edinburgh, Sir Keir said: “We intend to improve our relationship with the EU and that means closer trading ties with the EU, it means closer ties in relation to research and development and closer ties in relation to defence and security.”

“Obviously, there are many discussions to be had and negotiations to be had.”

“But I do think that we can get a much better deal than the botched deal that Boris Johnson saddled the UK with.”

He added that it depends on “respectful relationships, talking to leaders across the EU and of course that work has already begun”.

Mr Lammy used his first trip abroad as the UK’s top diplomat to make clear to his counterparts in Germany, Poland and Sweden about the chance to “seize the opportunity for a reset” and work “even more closely together to tackle shared challenges”.

Mr Lammy identified support for Ukraine and climate change, along with holidays and student exchanges, as areas where this can take place.

Elsewhere, Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said the return of freedom of movement with the EU was not on the table as part of efforts to improve post-Brexit trade.

Writing in The Local Europe, Mr Lammy said: “As the new British Foreign Secretary, with our Prime Minister Keir Starmer, this Government will reset relations with Europe as a reliable partner, a dependable ally and a good neighbour.”

Mr Lammy went on: “If we are to fulfil our ambitions for a reset, we must also improve Britain’s relationship with the European Union.”

He said the Government’s proposal for an “ambitious and broad-ranging” UK-EU security pact would seek to “underpin closer co-operation between us”.

He added: “Today, we all share a commitment to democracy, human rights and international law. Tragic experiences in our continent’s shared past have helped us to understand how our shared security and prosperity depend on these shared values.”

“And I believe these values also offer a foundation for closer partnership in the future. My visit this weekend is just the beginning. I look forward to seeing Britain reconnect with our European neighbours in the years ahead.”

Mr Lammy spoke to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and the pair agreed to meet “at the earliest convenience”.

The Foreign Secretary could attend the September meeting of the EU foreign affairs council despite the UK no longer being a member of the bloc.

Mr Borrell said the pair had a “good call” and discussed EU-UK cooperation in foreign and security policy, the latest developments in the Middle East and support for Ukraine.

Appearing on the Sunday morning broadcast round, Business Secretary Mr Reynolds said “removing some of those barriers to trade makes sense” when discussing future working with the EU.

He told Sky News’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “We’ve talked about recognising each others’ professional qualifications, again completely sensible, pragmatic.”

“If you are in the creative industries you’ve really suffered in your ability to move around the European Union in terms of the restrictions on that. These are practical things.”

Pressed on free movement of people, Mr Reynolds said: “We’re not open to the free movement of people, that is something that is part of membership of the European Union and, as I said, we’re not revisiting that.”

Irish premier Simon Harris said there was a “willingness” in the EU to talk to the new UK government.

The Taoiseach told Sky News: “I do absolutely think there would be a fair hearing for any proposal that the British government or indeed that the EU has about ironing out practical issues in terms of having a relationship that works.”

“Brexit has happened, the people of Britain have made that decision. But absolutely is there space to have a veterinary agreement, is there space in terms of student mobility, is there space to work closer together on issues? I think there absolutely is.”

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