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LONDON: For a decade, leaving the European Union was the issue that dominated British politics. It hardly comes up these days. Labor leader Keir Starmer clearly likes that.
He has worked hard to win back the support of working-class voters, millions of whom were lured five years ago by Conservative Boris Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done” when Labor leaves the path to remaining in the EU open.
Starmer’s reward is opinion polls predicting that he will enter Downing Street as prime minister later this week with a likely historic majority. But if he does get to that point, he won’t be able to keep Brexit news away for long.
Its task will be to stimulate economic growth. Businesses say this requires the removal of some of the barriers Britain’s exit from the EU has left in the way of their trade. And this probably means the restart of controversial negotiations with Brussels.
Britain finally left the EU in January 2020 under Johnson’s leadership. In its determination to turn the page on Brexit, Labor has ruled out rejoining the EU’s single market or customs union. But he says it is still possible to dismantle trade barriers in the 27-member bloc to help companies, especially smaller ones, that have struggled with higher costs and paperwork.
Labor does not want to “reopen the wounds of the past”, said Jonathan Reynolds, the Labor lawmaker who is set to become business secretary in the Starmer cabinet.
“Clearly we need to do a better deal and there are real improvements we can make,” he said on Thursday at an event organized by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the business lobby group, which said the parties should stand down. treading on eggshells” due to EU relations.
A survey by accounting firm Menzies showed that one in three British businesses want to reopen the Johnson-led Brexit deal, and one in five want a new government to rejoin the single market, with 20 percent citing obstacles due to Brexit. limits international expansion.

One of Labour’s early pledges is to strike an animal health deal with the EU that would reduce border checks on animal products, a barrier for British farmers and importers. In addition, he wants the mutual recognition of certain professional qualifications and easier access for the artists participating in the tour.
Labor is presenting these as relatively simple gains to be made without reopening the Johnson-led Brexit deal.
But even such small steps require tough decisions, said an EU source speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss hypothetical future negotiations.
An animal health deal will require Britain to submit to dispute settlement through the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the EU source said. This is outrageous to Brexit campaigners who see it as an infringement on British sovereignty.
“Everyone wants to work with a like-minded partner, friend and ally,” the EU source said. “But the idea of ​​getting the same benefits as a club member gets a little trickier.”
Anand Menon, UK politics professor and director of the Changing Europe think tank, said Labor was misjudging how enthusiastic it would be about renegotiating the EU after years of clashes with British governments.
The block already has a lot on its plate, he said. And while Britain may want to improve technical issues in areas such as food, Brussels wants to talk about mobility, making it easier for people, especially young people, to live and work in Britain.
“I think we’re going to have a huge style change and we’re going to do a bit of tinkering,” Menon said.
According to the Conservatives, the Labor Party’s policy would “disrupt Brexit”, including by bringing Britain back under the ECJ’s rulings.
In a debate this week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accused Labor of accepting a return to free movement of people as part of its plans to strike a better Brexit deal with the EU. Starmer said he would reject any deal with the EU that would increase immigration.
Labour’s Reynolds said he wanted to improve the trade situation while offering benefits for the bloc: “It’s not necessarily easy, but there’s a negotiation, there’s a process that I can see to get these things done.”

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