Labour conference: Neil Kinnock backs motion urging closer EU ties

Tom Belger

The former Labour leader Neil Kinnock is urging Labour party delegates to back a motion committing the party to restoring closer ties with the European Union, LabourList can reveal.

Kinnock, who led the party in the 1980s and early 1990s, warned in a video message to Labour supporters that Brexit had inflicted “terrible costs”, and urged them to back a motion by Labour Movement for Europe.

The motion calls for Labour to “make rebuilding our relationship with our European neighbours a priority for our first term in office for the benefit of national security, our economy, our climate and our trade”.

It also backs a manifesto pledge on cutting Brexit paperwork, getting better access to European markets for British workers and firms, and negotiating a visa system that tackles travel and trading delays.

The motion is reported to have been backed by dozens of Constituency Labour Parties in the run-up to conference. Delegates attending will have the chance to vote on Sunday which subjects are taken forward for debate.

Kinnock said: “Everyone now knows that Brexit has inflicted, is inflicting, terrible costs and losses on our economy and it’s diminished our country internationally. Obviously Labour wants to change that bleak reality, and part of doing that shoudl involve discussing it at our conference.

“So please vote with the Labour Movement in Europe and others, in giving priority to a debate to the European motion.”

A survey  by Deltapoll of 54 ‘red wall’ seats, commissioned by Labour MP Stella Creasy, found a majority of voters saying Brexit had dented living standards and contributed to inflation.

Stella Creasy told the i, which published the poll: “This research shows that the red wall is fed up with Brexit and the damage it’s doing to their lives.

“It’s especially startling to see that many of those who voted Tory but who are thinking of voting Labour at the next election not only blame Brexit for increasing prices, but also messing up immigration and our economy and see rebuilding trade with Europe as a priority.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer has made clear returning to the single market and customs union or free movement are not on the table for Labour, but in recent months the party has begun to set out ways in which it wants closer collaboration with European allies.

The recently published National Policy Forum document, which summarises Labour policy, states Labour already plans to “seek to reduce trade barriers for British business and ensure better access for professionals providing services in EU markets”.

It will also “aim to fix the problems with the current deal by strengthening mutual recognition of professional standards and qualifications and unblocking participation in the Horizon scheme”, and  improve links between students and universities.

And it pledges to “begin to develop long-term structures to ensure cooperation between the UK and EU in key areas such as the green just transition, energy, cultural exchange, tackling cross-border crime and protecting supply chains by removing trade barriers in food manufacturing and supply”.

Labour was not immediately available for comment.

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