Labour will reconnect ‘tarnished UK’ with European allies, says Lammy

Shadow foreign secretary to mark out diplomatic mission of a future Labour government in landmark speech

Labour will make closer cooperation with Europe across security, trade and foreign policy a central plank of a plan to reconnect “a tarnished UK” with its closest allies, David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, will say in a landmark speech designed to mark out the diplomatic mission of a future Labour government.

Addressing the thinktank Chatham House on Tuesday, he will say the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has not been given a clear set of goals post-Brexit. “Ideological leadership and reckless choices have left Britain increasingly disconnected from its closest allies, an economy in crisis, and a tarnished international reputation.”

His guiding aim in office, he will say, will be to create “a Britain reconnected, for security and prosperity at home”. Lammy will propose intensive regular bilateral meetings between the UK and the EU and a renewed focus on negotiating a defence security pact with the bloc. The regular summits would allow a structured dialogue to tackle Europe’s shared threats in areas such as cybersecurity, energy security and organised crime.

The bilateral summits would be additional to the European Political Community initiative bringing together a large range of non-EU states with Brussels, and first held last October.

He will suggest that a scheduled review of the trade and cooperation agreement with the EU in 2025 will offer a chance to iron out many of the difficulties in current mutual recognition agreements, so “reducing friction on food, agricultural, medical and veterinary goods, strengthening recognition”.

He is also promising to unblock participation in the Horizon scheme and improve links between British and European students and universities. But he will stress Labour has no intention of returning either to the EU single market or the customs union, regarded by Labour as issues that were settled irrevocably by the 2016 referendum.

Labour expects the negotiations around the Northern Ireland protocol to be settled by the next election, even though there are signs the Democratic Unionist party and the Conservative European Research Group faction have formed a new alliance in an effort to prevent Rishi Sunak endorsing a deal that gives the European court of justice an overarching judicial role in policing a renegotiated agreement.

The German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, has called the protocol dispute the achilles heel in the relationship between the UK and Europe.

Some EU experts believe Labour is underestimating the difficulties it will face in forging a new relationship with Europe, or the determination of Brussels to protect the integrity of the single market. But Lammy has been investing heavily in building personal relationships in Germany and France, to create a well of personal goodwill that has been lacking during 15 years of a Tory government.

More broadly, Lammy will argue relations with Europe are only one sign of how “poor leadership, bad choices and institutional dysfunction” disconnected Britain from the allies and partners it needs at a time of unprecedented geopolitical competition. On China he will call for greater consistency in the British approach.

He will not give a commitment to rebuild a fully separate Department for International Development, even though he believes the merger engineered by Boris Johnson was an error that has destroyed the UK’s reputation as an aid superpower. Nor will he set a date by which Labour will meet the commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid. The Conservatives have cut the target to 0.5%.

Labour is waiting to see if the current development minister, Andrew Mitchell, achieves his ambition of creating a development policy hub at the heart of the Foreign Office.

In other measures, Lammy will back calls made by US senators and the Atlantic Council thinktank for the US, Britain and the EU to join forces to create a Transatlantic Anti-Corruption Council, saying the current sanctions policy against kleptocrats is poorly coordinated.

He will also promise to publish a strategy on global supply chains within the first parliamentary session and forming a “clean power alliance”, describing it as an “inverse Opec” of developed and developing countries committed to 100% clean energy by 2030.


Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

The GuardianTramp

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