LABOUR have hit back at reports they want the UK to regain access to key EU meetings on foreign policy – after the reputed plans were dismissed as “absurd” by an expert.

The party had been said to be seeking to resume British access to regular meetings of the EU’s foreign affairs council – a regular meeting of the foreign ministers of trading bloc’s 27 members.

That suggestion was rubbished by Kirsty Hughes, the former director of the Scottish Centre for European Research, who said they would be unworkable.

The Financial Times reported that Labour sources had said they wanted to negotiate for Britain to be readmitted to the regular forum to bolster ties with the EU.

The forum has previously invited foreign ministers from countries outside the EU, such as US secretary of state Anthony Blinken (below), to participate in specific informal discussions.

The National: Antony Blinken

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba regularly briefs EU foreign ministers, but they only attend the sessions relevant to them, the Financial Times reported.

But the suggestion Britain could regain regular access was dismissed as an example of UK exceptionalism by Hughes.

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She told The National “Of course they’re consulting with the UK on Ukraine and Gaza but there’s just not the regularity and density of contact.”

Hughes (below) added: “The idea that you can suddenly pretend that you’re a partial EU member and turn up regularly at internal EU meetings is absurd.

The National:

“You can’t go for exceptionalism like saying we’ll come along to foreign ministers meetings.”

Labour have strongly pushed back on the report in the Financial Times, with Keir Starmer's spokesman telling The National they had “no plans” for Britain to attend the forum.  

He said: “We’re not rejoining the political structures of the European Union.”

While Labour wanted to have a “strong” tie between Britain and the EU on issues of “security and defence”, the spokesman added, this would not be through the “routine agenda of the foreign affairs council”.

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He said Labour would seek something “more specific and more bespoke” for Britain.

But Hughes said the debate around Britain’s ties with the EU highlighted a more significant problem for Starmer because he “refuses to talk about Brexit” making him unable to “admit the constraints on building Britain’s influence back up”.

The National: Keir Starmer

She added: “They’re obviously going to do what they can within their red lines but their red lines are very, very constraining and it means you don’t have that honest discussion.

“Labour doesn’t want to talk about Brexit, so it’s not having a fully honest conversation either in its written policy documents or in its conversation with the wider public.”

Alyn Smith, the SNP’s Europe spokesperson, said: “David Lammy’s confused position on the European Union shows that Labour will follow in the Tories’ footsteps.

“In contrast, the SNP is offering a clear and positive vision for Scotland’s future as a modern European country.”