Keir Starmer – 2019 Speech in Harlow

Below is the text of the speech made by Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, in Harlow on 5 November 2019.

Thank you Laura, and thanks to all of you for being here today.

It’s so invigorating being out here on the campaign trail fighting for a truly radical Labour Government and supporting great candidates like Laura.

And this election really matters.

If Boris Johnson wins, our country will take a decisive lurch to the right.

His Brexit deal is a hard-right deal. It paves the way for workplace rights, environmental protections and consumer standards to be stripped away.

It will do huge damage to our manufacturing industries.

It will weaken the Union.

And it will make every region and nation poorer.

The Tories haven’t provided any economic analysis of the deal.

There’s a reason for that!

Because we know what the cost is likely to be: the economy £70 billion smaller. Britain permanently poorer. On top of a decade of Tory austerity.

That’s the last thing we need. And I don’t remember that being written on the side of a bus!

Johnson’s deal also poses a further risk.

A huge risk: A trap door to no deal.

No 10 are now so obsessed with chasing the Brexit Party that they confirmed yesterday that a Tory majority government will not extend the transition period.

I’m not sure if that was a “dead in a ditch” promise or just a regulation No 10 commitment but it was certainly revealing.

Because it means the Tories would only have until July – just seven months – to negotiate the whole future economic and security relationship with the EU.

That’s some task. Particularly after failing for the last three and a half years.

And this time if they fail, there is no safety net: only a trap door to no deal.

So, make no mistake. A vote for the Tories is a vote to put no deal back on the table.

A vote for Labour is a vote to rule it out.

But this election is not just about the price of Johnson’s Brexit and the risk of a trap door to no deal.

It’s about the political direction of travel. Where his deal will take our country.

We know what the destination is for Johnson: He wants to turn away from Europe – away from strong workplace rights and environmental standards – away from our shared values.

For him, that’s always been the purpose of Brexit.

And once he’s done that, where will he turn? To America and to Donald Trump.

Our NHS up for sale.

Workplace rights up for sale.

Less protection for the environment, just when we need more.

That is a hard-right race-to-the-bottom deal.

We have to stop it.

Which brings me to Labour’s position.

After three and a half years of Tory failure, there’s only one way now to solve this.

This has to go back to the people.

So, we will first rip us Johnson’s deal.

Next, we will secure the best possible deal – including: a customs union, single market alignment and protection for rights and the environment.

People challenge me that such a deal is not possible.

I absolutely reject that.

Having had many hours of discussions with political leaders across Europe, I am confident that such a deal can be secured and secured quickly.

That deal will then be put to a referendum with Remain as the other option.

Under a Labour Government: Remain will be on the ballot paper.

And the referendum will be held within 6 months.

The public will have the final say on a very straight-forward question: Do you want to leave with the deal that has been secured? Or would you rather stay in the EU?

And the result will be binding.

But that is only half the story: because we are never going to get past the Brexit question unless we also tackle the gross inequalities and injustices, we see all around us.

The Tories have been in power for nearly ten years.

Three different Prime Ministers: each worse than the last.

The state of our country. Our communities. Our public services is down to them and down to their political choices.

So, this election is about so much more than Brexit.

It’s about what type of society we are.

What type of country we want to live in.

It’s about what our values are.

It’s about whether we tackle the climate emergency or ignore it.

Whether we rebuild our NHS, or sell it off to Trump.

Whether we tackle inequality and injustice or watch it get worse.

The choice is that stark.

Lose and we face more lost years. A hard right Brexit and a hard-right government.

Win and Labour can pull this country back from the brink: end austerity, rebuild our public services and invest in our communities.

The stakes could not be higher.

We can, and we must, win.