Thursday, July 25, 2024

Labour would never seek to take UK back into the EU, says Rayner

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Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has said that her party would never press for the UK to rejoin the EU or the bloc’s single market during a fractious televised election debate.

On Thursday Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer published the party’s election manifesto promising to improve the “botched” UK-EU trade deal negotiated by Boris Johnson in 2019.

He said Labour would seek a better agreement in areas such as security, research and trade in foodstuffs.

But Rayner was blunt when asked by an audience member in the ITV debate whether Labour would ever push for the UK to rejoin the EU or single market. “No,” the Labour deputy leader replied.

She was criticised by Stephen Flynn, Scottish National party leader at Westminster, who said Brexit should be reversed.

He said Rayner talked about economic growth but “didn’t mention the single market or free movement”.

The exchanges took place in a noisy debate involving Nigel Farage, Reform UK leader, who was jubilant about an opinion poll showing his party edging ahead of the Conservatives. The YouGov survey put Reform on 19 per cent, with the Tories on 18 per cent.

Penny Mordaunt, for the Conservatives, said a vote for Reform would allow Starmer into Number 10, claiming that Farage was a “Labour enabler”.

“We are now ahead of you in the national polls,” said Farage, who claimed his party was now the main opposition to Labour. “A vote for you is a vote for Labour.”

Mordaunt was challenged by Rayner to say whether she would let Farage into the Conservative party, a question dodged by the leader of the House of Commons.

“You might think I have a lot in common with Nigel,” Mordaunt said, noting that she was a Brexiter like the Reform leader.

But addressing Rayner, Mordaunt said: “What I’m standing against is letting you in and letting you tax the hell out of people. Nigel is helping you do that. We have less in common than you might imagine.”

Mordaunt, Rayner, Farage and Flynn were joined in the debate by Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper, Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth, and leader of the Green party Carla Denyer.

Cooper said the Lib Dems were not advocating a return to the EU now, but said that at “some point in the future I very much hope” that Britain would rejoin the bloc.

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