Thursday, June 20, 2024

Labour would ‘reset’ relationship with European Union, says Sarwar

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A Labour government would “reset” the relationship with the European Union, Scottish leader Anas Sarwar has said, as he pledged to promote Brand Scotland internationally.

Mr Sarwar said the party would look at where alignment with the EU could work in the national interest and that improving relations could be “transformational”.

Speaking on a campaign visit to East Renfrewshire, he also said a Labour government would use UK embassies to tout Scottish produce and boost exports, and that a Scotland Office under the control of Ian Murray, currently shadow Scottish secretary, would be “Scotland’s window onto the world”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer previously made clear that returning to the EU’s single market or customs union is a line Labour does not want to cross.

I think EU partners will look at an incoming Labour government and recognise that these are people we can work with

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader

However, Mr Sarwar said that there needs to be a change in the relationship with the EU in the wake of Brexit.

He said: “We have to fix the mess of Brexit that has been created by the Conservative party, we have to reset the relationship with our partners and friends in the European union.

“When I’m talking to sister Labour parties across the UK, when I’m talking to ambassadors for individual countries across the European union or I’m talking to EU representatives – they aren’t actually asking Labour to commit to rejoin the European Union at this election campaign.

“What they’re asking for is to commit to change the relationship, to reset the relationship and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Mr Sarwar said one thing Labour would do would be to work to “reset the relationship” and build trust with European colleagues.

He said: “Secondly, we’re going to look at where alignment works for us and is in our national interest and we can look to build on those alignments.

“Third, we’re going to act in the national interest rather than party interest.

“I think the opportunities are absolutely huge and I think EU partners will look at an incoming Labour government and recognise that these are people we can work with, people who are going to act in good faith, people who want positive outcomes, rather than people who are coming into this room or trying to build a relationship purely for a different political purpose.

“I think the opportunities from that could be transformational.”

Mr Sarwar was speaking on a visit to the Aldomak confectionary company with Labour candidate – and former Better Together chief – Blair McDougall in Giffnock on Tuesday.

Mr McDougall, who was head strategist to the No campaign during the 2014 referendum, is the party’s candidate in East Renfrewshire.

The Scottish Labour leader said that a UK Labour government will promote more high-quality Scottish products abroad.

Mr Sarwar said: “It’s no coincidence that the UK’s biggest food and drink exports both come from Scotland.

“Brand Scotland – our amazing food and drink, creative industries, and tourism and hospitality – has an immense soft power abroad, while creating jobs at home.

“But the chaotic Tory Government currently squatting in Westminster has failed to capitalise on our homegrown success.

“A Labour government with Scottish Labour MPs at the cabinet table will build on the reputation of smoked salmon and whisky to promote other high-quality products abroad.”

The SNP’s economy spokesperson and candidate for Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire, Drew Hendry, said: “The Labour Party sold out promoting Brand Scotland and our world-leading businesses the minute they started backing Brexit – it’s essential to vote SNP to reject Brexit and put the interests of Scotland first.

“Brexit has been disastrous for Scotland’s businesses, but here the SNP Government has been working tirelessly to counteract its impact by building up a network of successful international offices around the world dedicated to promoting Scottish goods and services.

“Time and time again, Westminster have tried to silence Scotland’s voice on the international stage and each time the Labour Party have sat by and watched on – only a vote for the SNP on July 4 will ensure that the interests of Scotland are put first.”

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