Starmer says far-right win in France would not deter him from seeking closer EU ties

Starmer says far-right win in France would not deter him from seeking closer EU ties

Labour leader Keir Starmer has said he will press on with plans to re-negotiate part of the post-Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with the European Union, even if the far-right National Rally (RN) of Marine Le Pen enters government in France.

Starmer - whose Labour party is topping opinion polls ahead of Thursday's general election - told reporters on the campaign trail on Monday that he didn't think a far-right win in France would change his party's "overall intention" of negotiating "a better deal with the EU."

The UK general election is sandwiched between the two rounds of snap legislative elections in France, abruptly convened by President Emmanuel Macron in what has been described as a high-stakes political gamble.

The far-right National Rally - which has seen its support bolstered under the leadership of Le Pen's 28-year old protégé Jordan Bardella - swept to victory with 33.4% of the national vote during the first round on Sunday.

The left-wing New Popular Front coalition came in second at 27.9% the vote, with Macron's centrist alliance trailing third at 20.7%. It places the far-right RN as firm favourites going into the second round, although other parties may tactically remove their candidates from the race in order to block a far-right victory.

"l work with any government in Europe and across the world if we are elected in to serve the country. For me, that’s what serious government is about," Starmer said on Monday.

But he also made a pitch for centrist forces such as his own Labour party, which is perceived to have gravitated more towards the centre-ground since he replaced Jeremy Corbyn as the party's leader in 2020.

"The lesson that I take from nationalism and populism, wherever it is across Europe (...) is that we need to address the everyday concerns of so many people in this country who feel disaffected by politics," Starmer said.

"We have to take that head on and we have to show on Thursday in the UK and across Europe and the world that only progressives have the answer to the challenges that are facing us in this country and across Europe."

The Labour leader - who campaigned to remain in the European Union ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum - has kept details of his plan to re-open the post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels vague.

His shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has suggested that chemicals regulation and financial services could be potential areas were a prospective Labour government could seek greater EU alignment.

Starmer has firmly assured he will not seek re-joining the EU's single market or customs union, or allow the return of freedom of movement. A clause in the post-Brexit TCA foresees a review of the deal in 2026.