Friday, December 2

Starmer rules out taking UK back into single market or customs union if Labour win election – UK politics live | Politics

Starmer confirms Labour would not take UK back into single market or customs union

Q: Do you think immigration is too high? Do you want it lower, or just a different profile of immigration?

Starmer says he starts by looking at what is driving the numbers. And if the skills failure is driving that, then we need to address skills, he says. That would mean immigration would go down in areas reliant on foreign workers.

But he would not hold firms back that needed to hire from abroad – for example, if they needed experts in innovative technology.

Q: What is your view on a Swiss-style Brexit deal?

Starmer says Labour would not take the UK back into the single market or the customs union.

But he says the current arrangements can be made to work better.

The current situation is not working well for business, for exports, or for growth.

He wants to fight the next election on growth, he says.

UPDATE: Starmer said:

On the Swiss model, I’ve said a number of occasions that we are not going back to the EU, and that means not go back into the single market or the customs union.

But we have to make Brexit work. The deal with government has got us, it’s not working well. It’s holding business back. It’s holding growth back. There are things that we need to do to address it. Some of them we could start straight away. The protocol in Northern Ireland needs a pragmatic answer; I’ve talked businesses in Northern Ireland, they have pragmatic approaches to how we could deal with the protocol in Northern Ireland.

We need to reduce trade barriers. By being clear that we want high standards, there isn’t a conflict there, there’s something we can build on.

We need to share more when it comes to education and research, and scientific research in particular.

I think there’s much more we can do in the security space, if you look particularly at the response to the Ukraine crisis, and the way Nato and the EU have worked together.

So I do think that we can have a better Brexit. I think that we need to make Brexit work and I think what’s happening so far has been a government that simply set the words get Brexit done and put in place a deal which I think most people in this room would say is not working well.

‘We have to make Brexit work’: Starmer confirms Labour would not consider single market – video

Key events

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No 10 urges MPs to ignore guidance allowing them to claim some Christmas party costs on expenses

Downing Street has criticised guidance that says MPs can claims expenses to cover the cost of food and refreshments, but not alcohol, for Christmas parties for their parliamentary staff.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has said it would approve such payments, although it has also urged MPs to make sure any gathering “represents value for money, especially in the current economic climate”.

At the No 10 lobby briefing, the PM’s spokesperson said Rishi Sunak did not believe MPs should be claiming for parties on expenses. He said:

Questions on these sorts of arrangements are for Ipsa, they’re independent of both parliament and government, they set the allowances. But the prime minister certainly doesn’t intend to use this and his view is that MPs will want to justify all spending to their constituents.

Government has ‘failed’ millenials on housing, childcare and wages, says Tory thinktank founder as he quits

Ryan Shorthouse, the founder of an influential Conservative thinktank, is to quit his post, accusing the government of betraying younger people who face stagnant wages and little help with punishing housing and childcare costs, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports. Shorthouse told the Guardian:

The Tory government has failed my generation – millennials – who have come of age and entered the labour market under 12 years of Tory rule, with punishing housing and childcare costs – combined with stagnant wages – preventing the building blocks of what Conservatives believe make the good life.

The full story is here.

Sunak tells cabinet winter will be ‘challenging’ for UK, with high energy bills, strikes and long NHS waiting lists

Rishi Sunak warned ministers at cabinet that this winter will be “challenging” because of high energy bills, strikes and long NHS waiting lists.

According to the No 10 readout of cabinet, the winter challenges were the main topic discussed this morning. In a readout, Downing Street said:

Looking ahead to winter, the prime minister said this would be a challenging period for the country caused by the aftershocks of the global pandemic and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster [Oliver Dowden] updated on the cross-government coordination taking place to mitigate some of the challenges expected this winter, including further strike action.

The health and care secretary [Steve Barclay] set out some of the issues facing the health system, where the pandemic had significantly exacerbated pressures – with 1,600 people waiting for more than 52 weeks for an operation pre-pandemic compared to 400,000 currently.

Rishi Sunak at the ceremonial welcome for the state visit to the UK by the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa. Photograph: Leon Neal/PA

Starmer declines to commit Labour to cutting overall immigration numbers, saying he’s opposed to ‘arbitrary’ targets

Here are the key points from Keir Starmer’s Q&A at the CBI after his speech.

  • He would not say whether he wanted overall immigration numbers to fall, saying he was opposed to “arbitrary” targets. Asked if his policies would lead to immigration numbers falling, or whether he just wanted to see different types of immigration, he replied:

On the question of numbers. I always start with what is driving the numbers when we discuss immigration, and if what’s driving the numbers is our skills failure … then I think we need to address the skills issue, rather than just talking about arbitrary numbers.

And that does mean, if we get this right, that immigration will go down in some of those areas that are overly reliant on immigration.

But equally I’m not going to hold businesses back if there’s innovation technologies where we do need talent from abroad.

The government is committing to reducing net migration numbers over time. But it has not said when, or set a target for the reduction, and when he spoke at the CBI yesterday, Rishi Sunak did not mention this as a pledge.

The Labour party has changed, we’ve turned the Labour party inside out and that’s particularly significant when it comes to the way we’re working with business.

I say to you loud and clear, this Labour party has changed, there is no going back and it is united behind what we’re trying to achieve.

We will inherit an economy that’s been damaged by the last 12 weeks and the last 12 years, and we need to fundamentally accept that as an incoming government …
Restoring stability is key … If that means there are things – good Labour things – which we can’t do as quickly as we would like, then that is a consequence of that security.

Keir Starmer speaking at the CBI conference.
Keir Starmer speaking at the CBI conference. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

According to the Mirror’s Dan Bloom, Keir Starmer hosted executives from businesses including the arms firm BAE Systems at an event in his Commons office last night where they watched Wales play in the world cup.

Business wooing latest – Keir Starmer hosted bosses from firms including arms giant BAE Systems in his Commons office suite last night, alongside MPs who watched Wales’ World Cup match in the cornerhttps://t.co/BOeDGyEJQC

— Dan Bloom (@danbloom1) November 22, 2022

Tories accuse Starmer of abandoning his pledge in Labour leadership contest to ‘defend free movement’

The Conservative party has responded to Keir Starmer’s speech by pointing out that his new approach to labour immigration is the opposite of what he was proposing when he stood for Labour leader. At the time Starmer said he supported “free movement”, which is what the Labour conference voted for in 2019 (although quite what that would mean after the UK left the EU, and automatic free movement for EU workers ended, was never fully set out by those who championed the notion).

My Guardian colleague Owen Jones, who is not a Conservative, has been making exactly the same point.

In the leadership election, Keir Starmer said, and I quote:

“We have to make the case for freedom of movement, and we have to make it strongly.”

However you cut it, there has never been such a dishonest campaign for a party leadership in British democratic history. https://t.co/EgG6w9rs8R

— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) November 22, 2022

It may not be wise for CCHQ to start complaining about leaders not keeping their election campaign promises because recently No 10 said that Rishi Sunak is reviewing all the policies he proposed when he stood for leader in the summer to see if they are still deliverable.

These, though, were promises made in a campaign that Sunak lost. When Sunak stood again, he did not make any pledges, or do any public campaigning, at all.

Lucy Fisher from Times Radio says some Tories think as many as 80 of their colleagues could decide to stand down at the next election. MPs have been asked to tell CCHQ if they intend to leave, or stand again, by 5 December. (See 10.56am.)

Expect there will be a big wave of ‘stepping down’ announcements from Tory MPs ahead of next election…

Some Consevatives predict as many as 80 colleagues will bow out rather than choose to fight again https://t.co/wYrtj4ILmm

— Lucy Fisher (@LOS_Fisher) November 22, 2022

Here is the full text of Keir Starmer’s speech to the CBI.

I have beefed up the post at 10.34am to include the full quote from Keir Starmer saying Labour would not rejoin the single market or the customs union, but explaining how he does think the current Brexit arrangements can be improved. You may need to refresh the page to get the update to appear.

Former DWP secretary Chloe Smith says she is standing down at next election

Jessica Elgot

Jessica Elgot

The former work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith has announced she will stand down at the next election, ahead of a December deadline for Tory candidates.

The Guardian understands that Tory MPs have been asked to express their preferences for the next election by 5 December, which is also the closing of the final consultation on the boundary review.

Smith won her Norwich North seat in a 2009 byelection against Labour and increased her majority to 4,793 in 2019, but had a tiny majority of just 507 votes in 2017. On current polling, Smith would be likely to lose her seat to Labour.

Smith was briefly in the cabinet under Liz Truss and held a variety of junior ministerial positions but returned to the backbenches under Sunak. When first elected, aged 27, Smith was the youngest MP in the Commons and also had a bout with breast cancer during her time as an MP.

She said in a statement:

I hope I’ve been able to make a difference, locally and nationally. In 2024, after 15 years of service, it will be the right time to step back, for me and my young family.

Chloe Smith
Chloe Smith. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Rex/Shutterstock

Starmer says he has ‘turned Labour party inside out’ since Corbyn era and transformed its relations with business

Q: Can we trust your party, given its recent history?

Starmer says he wants to stress “the Labour party has changed.” He goes on: “We have turned the Labour party inside out.”

And he has taken the Labour party with him, he says.

He is talking about the change from the Jeremy Corbyn era, and the transformation in Labour’s approach to business.

He says that was clear at the Labour party’s recent conference.

This Labour party has changed. There is no going back. And it is united behind what we are trying to achieve.

The last Labour conference was the best since 1996, he says.

And that’s the end of the Q&A.

I will post a summary of the speech and Q&A soon.

Q: What would you do to allow new entrants to the decarbonised electricity market?

Starmer says he wants to use his proposed GB Energy publicly-owned company as a catalyst for innovation.

Q: What do you want from business to help you achieve your priorities?

Starmer says he wants better public services. But that requires growth.

There are different models of growth. You could just focus on London and the south-east, and then redistribute the wealth from there to the rest of the country.

But that is not the model he wants, he says. He wants growth spread more widely.

He says he wants proper business engagement. And that does not just mean having a cup of tea with local business. It means working with business as the party develops policy.

Those were all questions from journalists. Starmer is now taking questions from CBI members.

Q: What is your priority for growth?

Starmer says it is the clean power plan for 2030.

Starmer confirms Labour would not take UK back into single market or customs union

Q: Do you think immigration is too high? Do you want it lower, or just a different profile of immigration?

Starmer says he starts by looking at what is driving the numbers. And if the skills failure is driving that, then we need to address skills, he says. That would mean immigration would go down in areas reliant on foreign workers.

But he would not hold firms back that needed to hire from abroad – for example, if they needed experts in innovative technology.

Q: What is your view on a Swiss-style Brexit deal?

Starmer says Labour would not take the UK back into the single market or the customs union.

But he says the current arrangements can be made to work better.

The current situation is not working well for business, for exports, or for growth.

He wants to fight the next election on growth, he says.

UPDATE: Starmer said:

On the Swiss model, I’ve said a number of occasions that we are not going back to the EU, and that means not go back into the single market or the customs union.

But we have to make Brexit work. The deal with government has got us, it’s not working well. It’s holding business back. It’s holding growth back. There are things that we need to do to address it. Some of them we could start straight away. The protocol in Northern Ireland needs a pragmatic answer; I’ve talked businesses in Northern Ireland, they have pragmatic approaches to how we could deal with the protocol in Northern Ireland.

We need to reduce trade barriers. By being clear that we want high standards, there isn’t a conflict there, there’s something we can build on.

We need to share more when it comes to education and research, and scientific research in particular.

I think there’s much more we can do in the security space, if you look particularly at the response to the Ukraine crisis, and the way Nato and the EU have worked together.

So I do think that we can have a better Brexit. I think that we need to make Brexit work and I think what’s happening so far has been a government that simply set the words get Brexit done and put in place a deal which I think most people in this room would say is not working well.

‘We have to make Brexit work’: Starmer confirms Labour would not consider single market – video

Q: What would you do to help firms with energy bills?

Starmer says Labour led in proposing a short-term energy plan.

But he says that is not a long-term answer. They need to improve energy supply.

Planning is holding firms up. Companies can build a windfarm in less than two years, but it takes seven years, allowing for the planning application. Labour would speed that up, he suggests.

And he says 19m homes are leaking energy. The government has gone slow on insulation. If the government had acted early, 2m homes could have been insulated by now, meaning 2m families would be paying smaller bills.

Starmer says his message to the NHS is that “the cavalry is coming”. Labour will boost recruitment, he says.

He says he has been having the same discussing on skills for seven years with business. A Labour government will do something about it, he says.

Q: You have been frank about the need to restore stability. What won’t you be able to do as quickly as you would like because you are prioritising stability?

Starmer says he won’t set out the next manifesto now. But the next Labour government will inherit an economy damaged by the last 12 weeks, and the last 12 years.





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