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LONDON: For a decade, leaving the European Union was the issue that dominated British politics. These days it hardly happens. Which apparently pleases Labor Party leader Keir Starmer.
He has worked hard to win back the support of working-class voters, millions of whom were lured five years ago by Conservative Boris Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done”, when Labor campaigned to leave the path open to remaining in the EU.
Starmer’s prize is polls now predicting he will enter Downing Street as prime minister at the end of this week, possibly with a historic majority. But if he gets there, he won’t be able to keep Brexit out of the news for long.
His mandate will be to stimulate economic growth. Businesses say this would require removing some of the barriers Britain’s exit from the EU has left in the way of their trade. And that in turn will probably mean the reopening of contentious negotiations with Brussels.
Britain finally left the EU in January 2020 under Johnson. In its determination to turn the page on Brexit, Labor has ruled out rejoining the EU single market or customs union. But it says it is still possible to remove trade barriers with the 27-nation bloc to help companies, especially smaller ones, struggling with higher costs and paperwork.
Labor does not want to “reopen the wounds of the past”, said Jonathan Reynolds, the Labor MP who is in line to become business secretary in Starmer’s cabinet.
“Clearly we have to get a better deal and there are real improvements we could make,” he said at an event on Thursday organized by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), a business lobby group that said the parties should stop ” treading on eggshells” because of ties with the EU.
A survey by accountancy firm Menzies found that 1 in 3 British companies want to reopen the Brexit deal struck under Johnson, 1 in 5 want the new government to rejoin the single market, and 20 per cent cited barriers as a factor as a result of Brexit. limiting international expansion.

‘LIKE-MINDED PARTNER’
One early Labor pledge is to seek a veterinary deal with the EU that would reduce border controls on animal products, a barrier for British farmers and importers. He also wants mutual recognition of certain professional qualifications and easier access to touring artists.
Labor has presented these as relatively simple gains they can make without reopening the Brexit deal struck under Johnson.
But even such small steps would require tough choices, the EU source said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss hypothetical future negotiations.
A vet deal would require Britain to submit to dispute resolution through the European Court of Justice (ECJ), an EU source said. It is anathema to Brexiteers who see it as an infringement on British sovereignty.
“Working with a like-minded partner, friend and ally is what everyone wants,” the EU source said. “But the idea of ​​having the same benefits that you get as a club member gets a little more complicated.”
Anand Menon, a professor of politics and director of the British think tank Changing Europe, said Labor may be misjudging how enthusiastic the EU will be about renegotiating after years of conflict with British governments.
He said the bloc already has a lot on its plate. And while Britain may want to improve technical issues in areas such as food, Brussels would like to talk about mobility — making it easier for people to live and work in Britain, especially young people.
“I think we’re going to have a huge change in style and a bit of tweaking of the content,” Menon said.
The Conservatives say Labour’s policy would “untangle Brexit”, including by making Britain vulnerable again to rulings by the European Court of Justice.
In this week’s debate, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accused Labor of planning to accept a return to the free movement of people as part of its plans to get a better Brexit deal with the EU. Starmer said he would reject any deal with the EU that increases immigration.
Labour’s Reynolds said he wanted to improve the trade situation while offering benefits to the bloc: “It’s not necessarily easy, but there are negotiations, there is a process that I can see to deliver those things.”

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