Keir Starmer has abandoned the commitment to the free movement of people in the European Union that he made with members of the Labor Party during the race for the party’s leadership.
The Labor leader said his party had to be honest with the public and that if it won the next general election, a major renegotiation of the Brexit treaty would not be possible.
The deal, which was finalized on Christmas Eve, confirmed the end of free movement for British and EU citizens within each other’s countries because it kept the UK out of the single market, as promised by the Conservatives in their 2019 election manifesto. .
In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Starmer was reminded that when he ran for Labor leadership after the party’s electoral defeat, he said, as one of the 10 promises, he would “defend free movement when we leave the EU.”
Marr also noted that in January 2019, when specifically asked if it would return the free movement of EU citizens to the UK, he had replied: “Yes, of course, bring back, defend, challenge.”
Starmer told Marr, however, that he was ruling out the kind of extensive renegotiation of the Brexit treaty that would be required to restore free movement.
“I don’t think there is scope for a major renegotiation. We have just had four years of negotiations. We have reached a treaty and now we have to make it work, ”he said.
He said there were aspects of the treaty that could be improved, including how it covered the creative industries and what it did for the service sector, which, he said, had been largely left out.
When told this would disappoint Labor members who voted for him because of his commitment to free movement, Starmer said it was unrealistic to pretend that the EU would want to negotiate a new Brexit treaty with the UK.
“Like it or not, that will be the treaty an incoming Labor government will inherit and it will have to make it work. And it is not sincere with the British public to say that we can take office in 2024 and apply some other treaty, “he said.
Free movement became an issue in the leadership campaign after the party conference endorsed the principle in fall 2019.The commitment was tied to defending migrant rights in general, but contradicted previous comments. from the party who said free movement would end if the UK left the EU.
When asked by Marr if he thought the government debt, around 100% of GDP, was at a dangerous level, Starmer said: “We will have to re-evaluate the debt.” However, he did not want to say how until he knew the state of the economy at the time of the next election.