LABOUR leader Sir Keir Starmer has doubled down on his commitment to a hard Brexit as he sets out his position on the EU.

The former Remain campaigner vowed not to take the UK back into the single market or restore freedom of movement as he set out his plan to “make Brexit work”.

He also ruled out a deal with the SNP at a future General Election and stated his unequivocal opposition to a second independence referendum. 

Starmer – who formerly pushed for a second Brexit referendum – said a government under his leadership would not join a customs union with the EU, in maintaining the hard Brexit deal brokered by Boris Johnson.

Instead, the opposition leader pledged to make the existing “poor deal” work by first fixing the Northern Ireland Protocol, which the Prime Minister is threatening to override.

In a behind-closed-doors speech for the Centre for European Reform think tank, Starmer vowed to “eliminate most border checks” under the current deal.

He would work for a new veterinary agreement for agricultural products moving between the UK and EU and improve trust to allow low-risk goods to enter Northern Ireland without unnecessary checks.

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“We will get the protocol working and we will make it the springboard to securing a better deal for the British people,” the Labour chief said, as he pledged to “tear down unnecessary barriers”.

Having been shadow Brexit secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, Starmer will hope that taking a firm line on future relations with the EU will distance him from past support for a possible second referendum.

“There are some who say ‘We don’t need to make Brexit work. We need to reverse it’. I couldn’t disagree more,” he argued.

Sir Keir Starmer is to outline his vision for the UK's future relations with the EU

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“Because you cannot move forward or grow the country or deliver change or win back the trust of those who have lost faith in politics if you’re constantly focused on the arguments of the past.

“So let me be very clear: with Labour, Britain will not go back into the EU. We will not be joining the single market. We will not be joining a customs union.

“The reason I say this is simple. Nothing about revisiting those rows will help stimulate growth or bring down food prices or help British business thrive in the modern world.

“It would simply be a recipe for more division, it would distract us from taking on the challenges facing people and it would ensure Britain remained stuck for another decade.”

Starmer added: “We will not return to freedom of movement to create short-term fixes. Instead we will invest in our people and our places, and deliver on the promise our country has.”

The opposition leader will say his plan will “deliver on the opportunities Britain has, sort out the poor deal Boris Johnson signed, and end the Brexit divisions once and for all”.

And he will argue his vision is “very different” to the Tories’ stance, which he argues is “about cutting standards, regulations and protections before stepping back and gawping at the power of the market”.

Instead, under his five-point plan, Labour would work to support industries by working towards mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

He said he would also work to strengthen security cooperation with Europe, seeking new security arrangements for British borders while sharing data and intelligence with allies.

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Last week, LibDem leader Sir Ed Davey refused to confirm his party wants the UK to rejoin the single market. 

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Starmer's remarks strengthen the case for independence and prove "beyond doubt" that independence is Scotland's only hope of rejoining the EU.

"Scotland didn't vote for Brexit but under Westminster control it has been imposed against our will – costing the Scottish economy billions of pounds, inflicting long-term damage to economic growth, trade, jobs and the NHS – and making the Tory cost of living crisis much worse," Blackford said. 

"It is frankly astonishing that Keir Starmer can look at all the catastrophic damage Brexit is causing and decide to become a Brexit supporter.

"The Labour Party are now indistinguishable from the Tories on Brexit. By running scared of the Tories and mutating into a pale imitation of Boris Johnson, Starmer is offering no real change at all. With all the Westminster parties ruling out a return to the EU, the single market and customs union, it is clear there is no route back to Europe and economic prosperity at Westminster."

He added: "With this hard Brexit U-turn Keir Starmer has perfectly encapsulated why Scotland needs to escape from Westminster control. Regaining Scotland's place in Europe will be at the heart of the independence referendum. It is increasingly clear that independence is the only way to secure the powers and opportunities Scotland needs to realise our potential."