Keir Starmer – 2020 Statement on UK/EU Trade Deal

The statement made by Keir Starmer, the Leader of the Opposition, on 24 December 2020.

As leader of the Labour Party, I have urged the Government to get on with negotiating the Brexit deal that it promised.

I wanted the talks to succeed.

I did so because a deal is in the national interest.

Businesses need a deal.

Working people need a deal.

Families need a deal.

The fact that the Government was even considering no deal – during a global pandemic – was grossly irresponsible.

After months of negotiations, a deal has now been agreed.

The choice facing Parliament – the choice facing Labour – is now whether to accept that deal or reject it.

The deal is a thin agreement.

It does not provide adequate protections for British manufacturing.

Our financial services.

Creative industries.

Or workplace rights.

It is not the deal the government promised.

Far from it.

And there are serious questions about the Government’s preparedness for the new arrangements.

Leaving everything to the last minute has made it even more difficult for businesses to be ready.

A better deal could have been negotiated.

But I accept that option has now gone.

The chance for renegotiation is over.

There are just two paths now left for our country.

To move forward with a deal.

Or without one.

No deal is simply not an option.

The social, economic and political consequences would be devastating.

Jobs would be put at risk.

Businesses would collapse.

Investment would dry up.

Our national security would be threatened.

The disruption we have seen at the Port of Dover in recent days would be the tip of the iceberg.

And the cumulative effect – on top of the worst recession of any major economy – would be unimaginable.

Labour is against no deal.

Firmly and absolutely.

And the British people would never forgive us if we enabled a no deal outcome.

There are some that argue Labour should be neutral on this issue.

To abstain.

I do not agree.

Leadership is about taking the tough decisions in the national interest.

It is about being a serious, responsible opposition.

A government-in-waiting.

This is the deal Labour will inherit in 2024.

It is something we will build on compared to the chaos of no deal.

The public would expect a labour government to make it work.

And the EU would expect us to make it work.

And to use it to protect our shared interests.

Including the peace process in Northern Ireland.

At a moment of such national significance, it is not credible for Labour to be on the side lines.

That is why I can say today that when this deal comes before Parliament, Labour will accept it and vote for it.

But let me be absolutely clear – and say directly to the Government – up against no deal, we accept this deal, but the consequences of it are yours.

And yours alone.

We will hold you to account for it

Every second you are in power.

For the promises you have made.

And the promises you break.

No longer can you blame somebody else.

Responsibility for this deal – lies squarely at the door of Number 10.

I want to address the British people directly.

I know how tired you are of Brexit.

The endless negotiations.

And political squabbles.

You want to move on.

You want politicians in Westminster talking about the things that matter to you and your family.

Securing our economy.

Protecting our NHS.

And rebuilding our country.

Those are my priorities.

We are a great country.

We have done extraordinary things.

Our NHS is the envy of the world.

British scientists were among the first to discover a coronavirus vaccine.

I want to be Prime Minister because I believe a better future is possible for our country.

That we can be even greater than we are today.

That we can achieve so much more.

That we can stand proud on the world stage.

And that we can make Britain the best place to grow up in and the best place to grow old in.

That is the change I believe in.

That is the change I want.

And with Labour under new leadership that is the change we offer.

Thank you.