Labour 'not interested' in associate EU Membership

Labour is "not interested" in associate EU membership if it wins the next general election, a senior shadow cabinet figure said.

Jonathan Reynolds told the Sky News Politics Hub with Sophie Ridge that while his party wants to improve the Tories' Brexit deal if it gets into office, joining a "revamped" version of the block was not being considered.

It comes after France and Germany tabled a blueprint to offer Britain and other countries EU "associate membership", in a move which could lay the ground for a closer relationship with Brussels.

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News of the plans emerged as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer held talks in Paris with French president Emmanuel Macron, who is said to be a strong supporter of the proposal.

Asked what he thought of the idea, Mr Reynolds said: "That's not what we're interested in, we have always made clear we think the (Brexit) deal has to be better."

Pressed on why Labour wouldn't want associate membership, he said: "If you look at the the huge uncertainty and the frequent chopping and changing of government policy for the last 13 years, I don't just mean around Europe, but on a whole range of areas, that is at the heart of why we have such low business investment in this country, why we are not seeing the kind of economy people want in terms of good jobs, good wages, prosperity in all parts of the country."

He suggested "reliving" the EU argument would add to that uncertainty.

"I voted Remain, but I never thought that in itself solved all the economic problems of this country, and equally the idea we can't address them without reliving that whole argument, I don't think is accurate either," he said.

Sir Keir has said he wants closer trading ties with the EU - but experts have warned his vision is likely to face challenges if he wins power.

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Labour has ruled out rejoining the customs union or single market and says it is confident it can improve the deal negotiated by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

However a report by the UK In a Changing Europe (UKICE) research group published this week said the party would need to set out a "much more detailed plan to demonstrate it is a serious negotiating partner with a realistic grasp of the issues at hand" and refine its "long list of ideas" into a more coherent set of goals.

Sir Keir's meeting with Mr Macron happened behind closed doors on Tuesday but speaking afterwards, he insisted the talks were "constructive and positive".

The Labour leader said shared interests including "future prosperity and security" were discussed and that he made clear his intention to strengthen the relationship between the two countries if his party wins the next election.

The pair sought to break the ice with an exchange of gifts that saw Sir Keir give the president a personalised Arsenal shirt and receive cufflinks.

The visit to Paris is the latest in a flurry of international engagements undertaken by Labour as the party leadership seeks to raise its profile on the global stage ahead of a likely general election next year.