David Lammy’s call for a defence-security pact with the EU has been shot down with a single brutal statement from an arch-Brexiteer.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary promised to strengthen the UK’s relationship with the European Union if his party succeeds in next year’s general election. He told the i podcast Labour’s Plan For Power that the EU will be Labour’s “number one priority” in foreign affairs, adding that a security pact with the bloc – previously rejected by Boris Johnson – would be “fundamental” to this.
But MP for Wokingham and veteran Brexit campaigner Sir John Redwood, simply responded: “Labour says they want a new defence agreement with the EU. We already have one with the EU’s military powers. It is called NATO.”
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Mr Lammy said on the podcast that the war in Ukraine “demonstrates” why a security pact with the EU would be beneficial.
He added he believed Britons would find it “extraordinary” that the UK Government does not sit down for talks with the European Union “every four months or every six months”.
“We need to get back to that,” he added. Discussing the conflict in Ukraine, Mr Lammy said a security pact with the EU would “be cast as wide as possible” to include “security issues about migration”.
While they are separate entities, there is a great deal of crossover between EU and NATO membership – they respectively have 27 and 31 member states, of which 22 are members of both. There are just four EU members who are not part of NATO: Austria, Cyprus, Ireland, and Malta.
Also weighing in on the comments, Chairman of the Conservative Party Richard Holden said: “Erm… well we all know it’s been Sir Keir Starmer’s priority. Turns out it’s now officially Labour policy too…
“You might have thought that the British people would be Labour’s priority – but for Labour, local people and our country will always be secondary to ideology. Remember that Sir Keir Starmer tried to make Jeremy Corbyn our Prime Minister… twice…”
Despite calling for closer relations with the bloc, Mr Lammy did not pledge a return to the EU for the UK. He insisted that his focus as foreign secretary would be to work in the national interests of both Leave and Remain voters.
However, he did not rule out a return to the bloc down the track. Writing for the Daily Express, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has previously stated the future of the UK lies beyond the EU.
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But Rishi Sunak, the first UK prime minister with Indian heritage, has already looked beyond the EU for the UK’s future. This includes efforts to shift some foreign policy focus to UK-India relations, with setting a trade deal with the South Asian country a top political priority.
The deal is yet to be reached, and a Labour government could see focus shifted back to the EU. Asked whether Labour would also prioritise relations with the Indo-Pacific region by PoliticsHome, Lammy said: “We do need to reprioritize our relationship with the European Union.”
The Shadow Foreign Secretary stressed however that it did not have to be a case of “either-or”. He said it would be important to build on the UK’s significant economic interests in the Indo-Pacific, adding: “Important and emerging democracies like India, we must continue to work very closely with.”
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