Prime minister's Protocol deal ‘shows Brexit can be better says shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves
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Rachel Reeves said a future Labour government would not “want to stop” at only improving trade prospects with Northern Ireland but also wanted to create a more booming export market for British businesses to sell into the European Union.
The Labour Party has consistently said it would not entertain rejoining the single market or the customs union if it secured power after the next general election, a poll that could be little more than a year away.
Ms Reeves said the Windsor Framework, a raft of measures designed to ease post-Brexit trade frictions between Great Britain and Northern Ireland caused by the protocol, indicated that better trading arrangements could be struck with Brussels.
Ms Reeves told the MakeUK conference in Westminster, London, yesterday that reviving the UK's economy would mean “repairing the damage from our botched Brexit deal” by instigating “practical reforms”.
She said there needed to be a “closer relationship2 with European neighbours in order to “help grow our economy”.
“Our current deal has left British exporters tied up in red tape, so we will fix the holes in that deal so that Great British businesses, big and small, can export so that we can boost inward investment into the UK.”
The senior opposition MP, asked after her speech about how Labour would achieve closer ties without re-entering the bloc's single market or customs union, pointed to the framework unveiled last week by Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
“We've already seen with the changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol that it is possible to make changes to our relationship with the European Union, changes that will make it easier for British business to trade freely,” she said.
“We don't want to stop at Northern Ireland though.
“We want to make it easier for British businesses to trade with countries across the European Union.
“And so we would work with our neighbours and allies to make practical changes.
“Not going back into the single market or customs union, but changes need to be made at pace to improve exports and get investment back into Britain, like a veterinary deal, mutual recognition of professional qualifications and helping our cultural industries to tour, as well as participation in Horizon.
“Practical things to help British business and to get investment here into the UK.”
The Windsor Framework was the result of cross-Channel negotiations to improve the protocol, which was part of former prime minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal and designed to prevent a hard border in Ireland by allowing some EU rules to continue to apply to Northern Ireland.
It saw the UK and EU agree to reforms aimed at reducing the amount of checks needed on GB/NI trade, while giving Belfast a stronger say on the Brussels rules that it will have to follow in the future.
The Windsor Framework is currently being considered by the DUP, as No 10 waits to discover whether it is enough for the party to rejoin a power-sharing agreement in Stormont with Sinn Fein.