Britain will start “dating” the European Union again should the next U.K. general election return a Labour government, the party’s shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, has claimed.
Lammy, a passionate advocate for the Remain campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum, hinted at the party’s future policy for a closer relationship with the EU but refused to go as far as saying Britain would seek to rejoin the bloc.
“We had a very, very bitter divorce with the EU. It’s a divorce that went on for years and years and years,” he told a Labour party conference fringe event in Liverpool hosted by the Tony Blair Institute.
“No one in this room in all seriousness would suggest you can have a divorce and that you could get married again without even going on a date,” the shadow foreign secretary told attendees.
“The starting point for a Labour government is: Let’s get back to the strong partners that have always traditionally been with our friends and colleagues in Europe.
“Let us get back to structured dialogue, let us build on what we have, and that starts with the trade agreement that we have and the review in 2025,” he added.
The Tottenham MP reiterated his desire for Britain to pen a security pact with the European Union, a move critics believe would cede sovereignty to the bloc, a fundamental factor for why the country voted to withdraw from Brussels.
“There’s much to do we think. The paper-thin deal that Boris Johnson struck is not the right balance, and we want to approach that seriously,” he explained.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has ruled out rejoining the European single market or customs union should he take office in the next election, but said last month that a Labour government would have no plans to diverge from the European mainstream.
“Most of the conflict with the U.K. being outside of the EU arises insofar as the U.K. wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners,” he told Sky 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,” he added.
The Express newspaper reported on Sunday that Labour shadow ministers had been ordered to refrain from talking about rejoining the bloc over fears it could hinder any future election campaign.
One senior party member told the newspaper’s website: “People are getting very frustrated behind the scenes, but we have to be patient. We know what Keir Starmer really thinks on leaving the EU and he was against it.”