Great Britain

Labour policy review to give members chance to push for closer post-Brexit links with EU

Labour members are being given an opportunity to push for closer post-Brexit ties with the EU, as Keir Starmer launches a delayed overhaul of all policies.

The review – to focus on better jobs, the environment, safer communities and putting “families first” – will start with a clean slate following Labour’s stumbling in May’s elections, the under-fire leader has said.

The move has sparked suspicions that left-wing policies Sir Keir backed – income tax hikes on top earners, common ownership of “rail, mail, energy and water” and scrapping tuition fees – are now up for grabs.

But one strand of the review, entitled “Britain in the World” will also create an opening for pro-EU members to press for Labour to end its near-silence on the post-Brexit relationship.

“We will create opportunities for that. There will be events for members to get involved,” a party source said – while stressing it wanted to listen to voices outside Labour as well.

Many members are frustrated with Sir Keir’s reluctance to push for additions to the skeleton Christmas trade deal, which is punishing exporters, the services sector and touring creative artists.

Some want Labour to campaign to rejoin the EU customs union – or, less plausibly, the single market – even if EU membership will be a non-starter for years to come.

The policy review, which Labour is calling a “roadmap”, will be a chance to steady the ship amid declining poll figures and a similar fall in Sir Keir’s leadership ratings, it hopes.

A disastrous loss in the Hartlepool by-election was followed by a botched reshuffle in which the leader appeared to lose a power struggle with his deputy, Angela Rayner.

The review has the title “Stronger Together: A Better Future for Britain”, with a starting point of “recognising the way Covid has changed people’s daily lives”.

Its six themes are: Better jobs and better work; a green and digital future; safe and secure communities; public services that work from the start; a future where families come first; Britain in the world.

Sir Keir said: “We need to build a future that everyone in Britain can be proud of. Labour did it before: creating the NHS, introducing a national minimum wage, slashing child poverty and bringing peace to Northern Ireland. Together, we can do it again.”

And Anneliese Dodds, the party chair and head of the review, said: “We need to rally together to support each other, to raise each other up, not pull each other down.”

Last month, Sir Keir stressed the process would move on from the 2019 manifesto, saying: “You don’t go through a review like this by picking up the last document.”

Of the 10 pledges he made in early 2020, a commitment to restore free movement of citizens with the EU has already been dropped.

A party source said it would be “weird” if the other pledges were not reexamined, given the extraordinary impact of the pandemic, but said the “values and mission” would remain the same.

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