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Is Starmer a Brexiter now?

By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

In his latest blog, Frank McKenna argues that Keir Starmer is right to rule out the UKs return to the EU.

This week Labour leader Keir Starmer took to national newspaper the Daily Express to explain that he had no inclination or intention of taking the UK back into the European Union. Further, he ruled out re-entering the Single Market or the Customs Union.

For someone who, only in 2019, was arguing for a ‘people’s vote’ and a second referendum, this has been some turnaround.

Or has it? Four years ago, parliament was at an impasse. Theresa May was struggling to ’get Brexit done’, with Tory rebels uniting with opposition parties to vote down a multiple-choice of withdrawal options.

It was a mess. The entire business of government was in the state of paralysis. The country was fed up with the whole thing. Arguing for a re-run to seek the electorates rubber stamp or otherwise on the 52%-48% decision did not seem unreasonable.

However, a lot has happened sine 2019. Boris Johnson, the Pandemic, a war in Europe, and Liz Truss, have left the country in a very different place than it was back then.

Starmer acknowledges that the British people have ‘moved on’. So too, has Europe. The idea that the European Union would welcome Britain back into its club with open arms, is for the birds.

They, as much as we, are sick to the back teeth of the psychodrama surrounding the UKs Brexit. They are more interested in securing a practical deal than inviting us back in.

And, if and when that attitude changes, don’t think for one moment that the EU would be offering the UK the remarkably favourable terms we enjoyed as members of the club pre-Brexit.

We would have to abandon the pound and sign up to the Euro. Our huge financial rebate has gone and will never be returned. So too, our veto. And we’d be expected to sign up to the Schengen agreement.

With this knowledge, it is simply pragmatic politics from Starmer to accept the practicalities of where we are – whilst hoping to win back some more ‘Red Wall’ voters in the process.

Of course, the left – including many from the New Labour wing of his party will cry ‘betrayal’. The Tories will criticise him for doing a U-turn. The reality is that the UK cannot return to the EU, even if it wanted to. Starmer knows that. Him making sure he takes some political credit out of that situation isn’t betrayal – its just clever politics.

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