KEIR Starmer has said that the UK doesn’t “want to diverge” from the EU in what appears to be another shift in policy towards the bloc.

The Labour leader showed support for Brexit in July 2022 and set out a five-point plan to “make Brexit work”.

And in a speech in January he said he wanted to embrace the “take back control” message of Brexiteers, despite the fact he was previously a Remain supporter.

Last week, in an interview with the Financial Times, Starmer claimed that he would get a better Brexit deal, while insisting he did not want Britain to rejoin the customs union, the single market or the EU.

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We told how experts branded this a “political lie” and that his plans were branded “delusional”.

And now, footage obtained by Sky News of Starmer at a conference of centre-left leaders in Canada showed the Labour leader declaring that “we don’t want to diverge” from EU rules.

He argued that Britain’s relationship with the bloc could be much stronger at the event alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store (below).

Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform (CER), told Sky News that Starmer’s comments went further than what he had said previously and may cause Brexiteers to question the point of leaving the bloc if there is no significant deregulation.

The National:

At the event in Montreal, Starmer was responding to a question from John McTernan, a former aide to Labour prime minister Tony Blair.

"Most of the conflict with the UK being outside of the UK [sic] arises in so far as the UK wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners," Starmer said.

"Obviously the more we share values, the more we share a future together, the less the conflict. And actually, different ways of solving problems become available.

"Actually we don't want to diverge, we don't want to lower standards, we don't want to rip up environmental standards, working standards for people that work, food standards and all the rest of it.

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"So suddenly, you're in a space where, notwithstanding the obvious fact that we're outside the EU and not in the [European Economic Area], there's a lot more common ground than you might think."

Grant said Starmer’s comments were indeed new and went further than he said before.

"I think if Keir Starmer wants to get the best deal with the prime minister, he's going to have to prepare the ground, which is why he saw Emmanuel Macron last week, why he probably said some comments when he was in Montreal that were quite interesting," he said.

"Because he's trying to soften up the other world leaders, so they know what to expect when he becomes prime minister if he does."

The National: Keir Starmer

Grant and the CER think tank are set to publish a “European strategy for Labour” next week.

Asked if he was surprised by Starmer’s comments, he said: "I don't know whether it was intended or not, and maybe it just slipped out late on the Saturday evening.

"The fact that he hasn't said anything quite similar in the UK is perhaps telling. Maybe what he thinks is that we shouldn't diverge too much with the EU because he understands instinctively that it's actually bad for businesses."

A Labour spokesperson told the broadcaster: "One of the [two contradictory] Brexit arguments was that the UK could become Singapore-on-Thames i.e. the whole deregulation agenda of everything from environmental to labour reforms. We've always rejected that, we're not interested in that sort of divergence.

"That doesn't mean we support dynamic alignment. We're not joining the single market or the customs union. We will not be in a situation where we are a rule taker."