Ian Blackford has slammed Sir Keir Starmer for “running scared of the Tories” and “offering no real change at all” after the Labour leader ruled out the UK rejoining the European Union single market or customs union under a Labour government.
Starmer set out a five-point plan that he claims will “make Brexit work” by fixing the “hulking ‘fatberg’ of red tape and bureaucracy” resulting from Boris Johnson’s deal.
“There are some who say ‘we don’t need to make Brexit work – we need to reverse it’. I couldn’t disagree more,” Starmer said in his keynote speech on Monday (July 4) evening at the Irish embassy in London.
One such opponent to Starmer’s newly stated Brexit position is Labour’s London mayor Sadiq Khan who spoke for many party members when he said the “country’s future is best served being members of the single market.”
SNP Westminster leader Blackford was more damning of the Labour leader, saying: “Keir Starmer has strengthened the case for [Scottish] independence by embracing the Tories’ hard Brexit.”
The SNP is campaigning for an independent Scotland to re-enter the EU, and Blackford added: “By running scared of the Tories and mutating into a pale imitation of Boris Johnson, Starmer is offering no real change at all.”
Starmer – ‘It is my job to be clear and honest’
Starmer told his audience at the pro-EU think tank, the Centre for European Reform event at the embassy, that the “arguments of the past” have to be let go in order to focus on the future and to heal divisions.
“So let me be very clear,” said Starmer. “Under Labour, Britain will not go back into the EU. We will not be joining the single market. We will not be joining a customs union.”
To those not wanting to hear such a message, Starmer said “it is my job to be frank and honest”, arguing that “revisiting those rows” about Europe will not “help stimulate growth or bring down food prices or help British business thrive in the modern world.”
He added: “It would simply be a recipe for more division, it would distract us from taking on the challenges facing people and it would ensure Britain remained stuck for another decade.”
He would make Johnson’s “poor deal” with the EU work by focusing first on fixing the Northern Ireland protocol. Starmer pledged to get rid of “most border checks created by the Tory Brexit deal” and implement a “new veterinary agreement for agri-products between the UK and EU.”
The four other points of Starmer’s plan include supporting British industries through a “mutual recognition of professional qualifications”; restoring access to research programmes and funding; introducing new security arrangements to bolster the nation’s borders; and, delivering “good, clean jobs of the future to our shores”.
Stamer’s message echoes comments made by Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey almost two years ago when he said the idea of campaigning to rejoin the EU was “for the birds”.