If the British, in a kind of psychological-political test, are asked what adjective comes to mind when mentioning the name of the Labor leader Keir Starmer, the vast majority, except for his Praetorian Guard and those who reward a victory as whether in the next elections above any other consideration, they will say things like coward, timid, indecisive, timid, dull, insecure, fearful, hesitant, pusillanimous, self-conscious, irresolute...
At 61 years old, his experience in the Government is zero, he has never even been a minister, and he has only been an MP in the Commons (for the London constituency of Holborn and Saint Pancras) since 2015. It is not unfair to say that the country He does not have a high opinion of him, and generally provokes indifference. He believes that, after the visionary radicalism of Boris Johnson and the dogmatic hallucinations of Liz Truss (and her predecessor at the head of Labour, Jeremy Corbyn), going as unnoticed as possible is the best tactic to reach Downing Street. Of its one hundred and twenty years of history, Labor has only been in power for thirty of them, a quarter, the last time between 1997 and 2010. So it is not about wasting the opportunity.
Perhaps he is not wrong (he is on average twenty points ahead of Rishi Sunak in the polls, although most of this is due to the conservatives' hara-kiri and their wear and tear after thirteen years in power), but there is a limit to everything. After having played catenaccio (lock) for three years, like the Italian teams of the eighties, and despite winning the game, the public demands that one year before the elections, and with the score in favor , attack a little more. At least so that voters can get a vague idea of what kind of prime minister he would be, whether he would raise taxes or not, whether he would spend or save, whether he would nationalize or privatize, whether he would seek social justice or give free rein to the millionaires. , whether it would build affordable housing and reform public health, whether or not it would approach the European Union...
About almost everything, but especially about the latter, he has remained silent as a dead man, for fear of opposing the traditional Labor voters of the north of England who, excited about Brexit and opposed to immigration, gave the absolute majority to Boris Johnson in 2019. But in Montreal, at a summit of center-left leaders (including the Canadian Justin Trudeau and the former prime ministers of New Zealand and Finland, Jacinda Ardern and Sanna Marin), he loosed his tongue and said that he wants to renegotiate the agreements “so that the United Kingdom enjoys a much better deal than it has now.”
It is not that he has jumped into the void, which goes against his genes, because at the same time he has remembered that he is not even considering returning to the EU, the single market or the customs union, and not even thinking about recovering the free movement of workers, which makes their position have very little revolutionary. He has even backtracked on his idea, which would have been his, of granting the vote to European citizens residing in the country, which would change the electoral map. But the conservative press, very influential, had already jumped on him, and God forbid they give it ammunition.
What then would Keir Starmer renegotiate, if, as seems likely, he is, within a year or fifteen months, the next tenant of 10 Downing Street? According to him, he indicated in Montreal, a regulatory alignment in professional services, veterinary requirements, food hygiene, safety and research, which will reduce obstacles to imports and exports. In other words, the assumption, from outside the EU and without having any say, of the Brussels provisions on all these issues. And in immigration, an explosive issue, accepting a certain number of asylum seekers sent by the EU, in exchange for being able to repatriate others to the countries from which they have come, in a kind of quid pro quo. A package that is just the opposite of what Johnson signed in 2021.
A clear majority of Britons now admit that leaving the EU has been damaging (the economic data, such as the loss of around 5% of GDP, speaks for itself), and 51% say they would vote to return if there were a new referendum. But the reality is that there is no political appetite to re-fight the traumatic 2016 battle between Remainers and Brexiteers, which pitted friends, marriages and families against one another. To what's done, chest, as the traditional people say. No surgery, in any case palliative care, which is what Dr. Starmer is into.
But to dance a tango, or whatever, it takes two. And it is one thing that Starmer wants to “renegotiate”, and another that the EU is willing to follow suit. The current agreements are scheduled to be reviewed in 2025 (Labour would have been in power for just over a year), but from Brussels' perspective it is more a matter of making minor tweaks than re-entering the underlying issues after the exhaustive dialogue first with Theresa May (who wanted to remain in the customs union) and then with Boris Johnson (who threw away his predecessor's commitments to end up signing other very similar ones, with the express intention of breaking them). Especially when the problems in Northern Ireland have not disappeared, and crucial aspects of the pact, such as the inspection of food coming from the continent, have not even begun to be applied. Rishi Sunak, who is a pragmatist, has renounced the automatic abolition of all European laws in force in the United Kingdom, due to the administrative and legal chaos that such a measure would have caused.
Starmer has begun to press the accelerator as he sees the closer goal. At the center-left summit in Montreal he has felt supported. Today he meets with Macron in Paris, despite the fact that the French president only usually receives opposition leaders who are of his political line (he is further to the right). He needs to finish the electoral task at home. Although expecting the British to see him as brave and brave is perhaps asking too much. He is satisfied with being said of him that he is prudent, farsighted, responsible, conscious, sane... Which, after the Johnson-Truss era, is already enough.