Keir Starmer calls for UK to 'embrace the change that's coming'
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The Labour leader has kept quiet on the issue of the UK’s new trading relationship with the EU since the end of the transition period on December 31 last year. It comes after over the weekend insiders said the leadership had urged “radio silence” on the issue.
Speaking at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) annual conference today Sir Keir attacked the Government’s deal, accusing it of “holding back” businesses.
He said: “Whichever way we all voted, I think we all share anger and frustration at the way the Government has handled this.
“The 11th-hour deal, new red tape, and more bureaucracy.
“That’s holding British businesses back.
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“It’s making it harder and more expensive to export to our largest market.
“As we now face the future and build new trading relationships with the EU and the rest of the world, it’s vital that we do so with the needs of British farming and fishing communities at heart.”
Despite criticising the trade agreement at the conference today, Sir Keir voted for the deal in the House of Commons in December.
The Labour leader described it as a “thing deal” but said it was better than leaving on World Trade Organisation terms.
Asked by Express.co.uk if the the Labour leader believed UK farmed were better off when Britain was in the EU, he added: “I spent four years of my life having that argument and like everybody else I recognise that whatever views we held before – and I had pretty strong views on this – we’ve now moved on.
“We’ve left the EU and our job is to make a success of that in our relationship.”
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A Conservative Party spokeswoman said Labour’s anti-Brexit stance during negotiations was the true cause of UK businesses being “held back”.
She said: “It was Keir Starmer’s political games as shadow Brexit secretary that kept us tied to the Common Agricultural Policy that has held our farming industry back for so long.
“The Conservatives are using our independence to deliver a better, fairer farming system in England, which will be tailored to the interests of farmers.”
The Labour leader’s intervention at the NFU comes after Labour politicians said Sir Keir was eager to dodge the issue.
Over the weekend, Labour’s former Europe minister Lord Peter Hain said Brexit was the “elephant in the room”.
“It’s quite understandable that Brexit has not been top of Labour’s agenda, but it’s not sustainable to ignore this elephant in the room,” he told The Observer.
A backbench MP added: “The order that is coming out is: ‘Don’t mention the war.’
“We are being told that Keir wants to move on and that if we mention the B-word let alone suggest we a need better deal with the EU than Boris Johnson’s we are being unhelpful.”
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