Tories accuse Starmer of ‘flip-flopping’ over EU following claims Labour wants to undo Brexit – UK politics live

Environment minister accuses Starmer of ‘flip-flopping’ over Brexit

Nicola Slawson

Nicola Slawson

The Tories have accused Keir Starmer of flip-flopping over the EU following claims Labour wants to effectively undo Brexit.

The Labour leader made a speech on Thursday where he outlined his vision of a future UK relationship with the EU, saying Labour didn’t “want to diverge”.

The Labour leader was speaking at an event in Canada bringing together liberal and centre-left politicians, where he said that “most of the conflict” since Brexit had arisen because the UK “wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners”.

Speaking on GB News on Friday morning, the environment minister, Mark Spencer, accused Labour of obsessing over Brexit and said Starmer seems to make policy up “on the hoof”.

He said:

We don’t really know what he’s saying, he’s flip-flopping about. One minute he’s saying he wants to have free movement, then the next minute is saying he wants to control our borders.

He doesn’t seem to have a clear policy and he seems to make it up on the hoof on occasion.

I think it’s very difficult to define what he just stand for. He seems to be, to me, obsessed in getting into power but doesn’t really have a principle to get in there – and I think that’s the real danger of the Labour Party.

Spencer added that we have got to acknowledge democracy happened and that the country voted to leave the EU.

He continued:

The prime minister is delivering that Brexit and now we are an independent country, separate from the EU, but we can still trade with them and still co-operate with them, but on our own terms.

I think that’s the right relationship, the right balance.

I think to keep obsessing – as the Labour Party do – over Brexit and looking back with pink-tinted spectacles and talking about following their rules, I think just takes us back in time.

We’ve got to get over the fact that we voted to leave the European Union, we need to embrace that, make the most of it – as we are doing – and stop looking backwards as the Labour Party appear to want to do.

I will be looking after the politics blog today. If you have any tips or suggestions, please get in touch: [email protected].

Key events

In response to the Labour plan to strengthen the Office for Budget Responsibility watchdog, former prime minister Liz Truss said it beggars believe that the party would want to give even more powers to quangos.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves announced plans that would mean ministers would have to consult the official watchdog on major tax and spending changes in order to prevent a repeat of Truss’s ill-fated mini-budget last autumn.

The move would ensure the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) was not “gagged” by future prime ministers and chancellors trying to avoid an official financial forecast.

Truss said:

The 25-year economic consensus has led to state spending being higher than it’s been for around 50 years, taxes at their highest since World War Two and a debt of over £2.5 trillion. This has caused low economic growth.

It beggars belief that Labour think Britain’s problems will be solved by bigger government and even more powers for quangos.

Hard-working people and businesses – freed from overbearing regulation, tax, and debt – are going to get Britain growing again, not more bureaucrats in London.

UK business activity shrinks most since financial crisis excluding Covid period

Julia Kollewe

Julia Kollewe

The risks of a UK recession have risen as business activity is shrinking at the fastest pace since the financial crisis, when months hit by Covid-19 lockdowns are excluded, according to a closely-watched survey.

A steeper downturn in the dominant service sector is weighing on the UK economy, with overall business activity at a 32-month low in September, the ‘flash’ estimate from S&P Global showed.

You can follow our business liveblog here for more on that:

Ben Quinn

Ben Quinn

Ministers would have to consult the official watchdog on major tax and spending changes under Labour plans that would prevent a repeat of Liz Truss’s ill-fated mini-budget, the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, has said.

The move would ensure the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) was not “gagged” by future prime ministers and chancellors trying to avoid an official financial forecast, she said.

A Labour government would also introduce legislation to ensure that the OBR has the power to independently publish its own impact assessment of any major fiscal event making permanent tax and spending changes, she pledged ahead of a visit on Friday to the London Stock Exchange with the party leader, Keir Starmer.

The plan was announced before the first anniversary of Truss and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s £45bn spree of unfunded tax cuts in a “mini-budget” that triggered a chain of economic chaos ranging from a sterling slump to soaring mortgage costs.

In a break with tradition, which further spooked international markets, Kwarteng refused to publish the OBR autumn 2022 forecast. When it was published 10 months later after a freedom of information request, it revealed he went ahead with a package of tax cuts despite being told by the OBR that the economy was on course for a year-long recession and that higher interest rates were pushing up the cost of servicing the UK’s debts.

“I’m saying that we won’t allow that to happen again because the OBR will not be gagged,” Reeves told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday.

The party said ministers would be forced to open their books to the forecasters, though any government wanting to disregard them could seek to reverse the legislation.

Reeves also defended plans to fix budget announcements for the autumn, followed by a spring update in early March, to give families and businesses time to prepare for changes.

Rejecting the assertion that it would make it harder for chancellors to respond to unpredictable events, she said: “This is good international practice, that you set a date for the budget and you stick with it.”

Read more here:

Rachel Reeves denied that Labour was “anti-motorist” because of its commitment to maintain the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel engines.

Rishi Sunak has pushed that deadline for new vehicles back to 2035, in a move criticised by car industry figures who wanted certainty on the shift to electric cars.

Sunak’s announcement that he will delay banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by five years to 2035 in a U-turn on the government’s climate commitments has triggered international condemnation and anger from industry.

The policy shift came on Wednesday, as the prime minister stated that there would also be a slowdown in the phasing out of gas boilers and that the requirement for landlords to make their properties energy efficient would be scrapped.

The shadow chancellor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that motorists who want an internal combustion engine beyond 2030 would still be able to buy second hand.

She said:

No one’s talking about banning petrol and diesel cars, the second-hand market will still be really vibrant and petrol and diesel cars will still be on the road for many years to come.

She added that Labour were “certainly not anti-motorists”.

The price of electric vehicles is coming down all the time. But over the last 24-48 hours, I’ve had so many messages from business leaders saying ‘all we want is a bit of stability and consistency and frankly some ambition from this government’.

We want businesses to invest in the UK, in the industries of the future from electric vehicles to carbon capture to green steel.

And they’ll only do that if we’ve got a government that is committed to these goals and these targets.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves defended Keir Starmer’s position of not diverging from European Union standards on workers’ rights, environmental protections or food.

She said this will mean it will be easier for an incoming Labour government to get a better deal with the EU in order to improve trade.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today:

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to people that an incoming Labour government doesn’t want to dilute workers’ rights, environmental protections or food standards. That’s not what Labour are about.

But because we want those high standards, we think it is easier for an incoming Labour government to get a better deal with the EU to improve trading relations.

Because the truth is, the deal that Boris Johnson secured three years ago is not good enough and we have seen a decline in trade between the UK and other European neighbours.

But she insisted there would not be “dynamic alignment”, where the UK follows changes from Brussels, and “we are not going to be rule-takers”.

Lisa O'Carroll

Lisa O’Carroll

The Brexit trade deal should not be reopened just to satisfy demands from some sectors of the UK and EU motor industry concerned about looming tariffs on electric cars, Thierry Breton, the influential European commissioner, has said.

EU leaders have come under pressure to suspend 10% tariffs on electric car exports that are expected to begin in January under the Brexit treaty.

But Breton, who is responsible for the EU internal market and was speaking exclusively to the Guardian, said the commission and EU leaders are bound under competition laws to look at the entire automotive “ecosystem” and not favour one “category” in the industry over the other.

He believes the trade deal should not be unpicked.

“If something has been negotiated, it shouldn’t be changed,” Breton said.

Earlier this year Stellantis, the parent company for 14 brands including Vauxhall and Jeep, issued a stark warning that it may have to close operations in Britain with the loss of thousands of jobs if the tariffs were not temporarily lifted.

Their call has been backed by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), which has said exports of electric cars to the UK worth tens of billions of euros a year will be put at risk unless the Brexit trade deal is altered.

Recent support from Germany has fuelled anticipation of a favourable decision by the commission.

But Breton warned that the car industry was not made up of big brands like BMW, Volkswagen or Vauxhall alone and he had to ensure a level playing field for all.

Read the full story here:

Labour frontbencher James Murray suggested closer co-operation with Brussels would improve national security and increase trade.

The shadow Treasury financial secretary said comments from Conservatives following Starmer’s speech seem to be “an attempt to distract from the fact that they have no plan to make Brexit work.”

He told GB News:

I think this is about doing what is in our national interest – what’s in our national economic interest, as well as our other national interests when it comes to security, supply chains, cross-border policing and so on.

And actually, I think when I hear some of the Conservatives speaking about about what Keir Starmer said, it does feel to me like an attempt to distract from the fact that they have no plan to make Brexit work.

We know that businesses are suffering from greater red tape. We know this is impacting on growth. We know it’s deepening the cost of living crisis.

That’s why we want to see an improved trading relationship with the EU and to help grow the economy and make people across Britain better off.

Labour frontbencher James Murray has also been doing the media rounds to defend Keir Starmer following the Labour leader’s speech in Canada where he talked about the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

Murray insisted Starmer had been clear about the party’s “red lines” with the European Union.

He told Sky News:

Keir has been clear throughout that we have red lines when it comes to our relationship with the EU post-Brexit.

We don’t want to be in the single market. We don’t want to be in a customs union. We don’t want to bring back freedom of movement.

But we do want a better trading relationship, we want a better trade and investment relationship between the UK and the EU and I think what’s really clear is that the Tories have no plan to make Brexit work, and that is impacting on businesses and our economy and fundamentally leaving people across Britain worse off.

The shadow financial secretary said there would still be areas where a Labour government would diverge from Brussels, for example by striking trade deals around the world.

He added:

All we’re seeing under the Conservatives is extra red tape on businesses, which means that it’s impacting on economic growth, which means it’s deepening the cost of living crisis.

Shadow chancellor: Labour ‘doesn’t want to rejoin the EU’

The shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, dismissed claims Labour wanted to effectively undo Brexit.

Reeves said what Labour want is “a better relationship with our nearest neighbours and trading partners”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

We don’t want to rejoin the EU in name or any other way; we accept the result of the referendum.

That was seven years ago, more than seven years ago now. Times have moved on.

But we do want to have a better relationship with our nearest neighbours and trading partners.

Even Rishi Sunak has accepted that is possible, by re-entering the Horizon research programme between UK universities and European universities.

But there are other areas – for example making it easier to trade agricultural goods or helping our services sector with a mutual recognition of professional qualifications, helping our fantastic cultural industries tour round Europe.

Environment minister accuses Starmer of ‘flip-flopping’ over Brexit

Nicola Slawson

Nicola Slawson

The Tories have accused Keir Starmer of flip-flopping over the EU following claims Labour wants to effectively undo Brexit.

The Labour leader made a speech on Thursday where he outlined his vision of a future UK relationship with the EU, saying Labour didn’t “want to diverge”.

The Labour leader was speaking at an event in Canada bringing together liberal and centre-left politicians, where he said that “most of the conflict” since Brexit had arisen because the UK “wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners”.

Speaking on GB News on Friday morning, the environment minister, Mark Spencer, accused Labour of obsessing over Brexit and said Starmer seems to make policy up “on the hoof”.

He said:

We don’t really know what he’s saying, he’s flip-flopping about. One minute he’s saying he wants to have free movement, then the next minute is saying he wants to control our borders.

He doesn’t seem to have a clear policy and he seems to make it up on the hoof on occasion.

I think it’s very difficult to define what he just stand for. He seems to be, to me, obsessed in getting into power but doesn’t really have a principle to get in there – and I think that’s the real danger of the Labour Party.

Spencer added that we have got to acknowledge democracy happened and that the country voted to leave the EU.

He continued:

The prime minister is delivering that Brexit and now we are an independent country, separate from the EU, but we can still trade with them and still co-operate with them, but on our own terms.

I think that’s the right relationship, the right balance.

I think to keep obsessing – as the Labour Party do – over Brexit and looking back with pink-tinted spectacles and talking about following their rules, I think just takes us back in time.

We’ve got to get over the fact that we voted to leave the European Union, we need to embrace that, make the most of it – as we are doing – and stop looking backwards as the Labour Party appear to want to do.

I will be looking after the politics blog today. If you have any tips or suggestions, please get in touch: [email protected].

source: theguardian.com