by Oleg Burunov
Under the London-Brussels trade deal concluded on 24 December, freedom of movement for EU nationals to the UK comes to end and will be replaced by a points-based immigration system, in line with a key demand of the Brexit project.
UK Labour leader Keir Starmer has scrapped his previous pledge to reintroduce free movement with the EU if his party wins the next election.
“I don’t think there’s an argument for reopening those aspects of the treaty”, Starmer told the BBC on Sunday, referring to free movement and the post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the EU that came into force on 1 January.
During a Labour leadership contest in 2020, Starmer promised to “defend free movement as we [Britain] leave the EU”, also vowing to bring back the policy if elected.
In the BBC interview, he described the EU-UK post-Brexit deal as a “treaty that an incoming Labour government inherits and has to make work”, adding that “it is not being straight with the British public to say we can come into office in 2024 and operate some other treaty”.
“We have a treaty, it’s a thin treaty, it’s not what was promised. But I’m very conscious of the fact that everything I’m doing, everything the Labour Party is doing is focused on winning an election in 2024”, Starmer pointed out.
He insisted there is little scope for a “major renegotiation” of the post-Brexit deal, noting the sides had “four years of negotiations” and that they had “arrived at a treaty and now we’ve got to make that treaty work”.
The Labour leader also underscored that “the last thing anybody wants including the EU is to start again from scratch with this treaty”, which Starmer said is “now the basis of our [the UK’s] relationship with the EU”.
He asserted that his party “didn’t know what that [the deal] was until we saw what it was before Christmas”.
“I don’t think there’s a case for rejoining the EU, I’ve said that before. But pretending to the British public that somehow after four years of negotiation that the treaty that’s just been secured is going to be up for grabs, that is not going to be realistic”, Starmer underlined.
The remarks come a few weeks after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed London and Brussels finally reaching “a comprehensive Canada-style free trade deal”, following months of difficult talks and missed deadlines.
The agreement specifically stipulates the end of freedom of movement for EU nationals to the UK, something that will now be replaced with a points-based immigration system.
As of January 2021, EU citizens will no longer have the right to move to the UK to work and settle and vice versa. The deal envisages visas being secured for stays of more than 90 days in the EU, with every British traveller obliged to make sure their passport has enough validity before starting their journey.