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In UK’s ‘new age of hope’ rejoining EU ‘is not going to happen’

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In an exit poll published the moment voting ended in the United Kingdom’s parliamentary election, the opposition Labour party is projected to return to power with 410 of the 650 seats in the Westminster parliament. That would be a record landslide victory delivered by the UK’s wildly disproportionate first-past-the-post electoral system.

The man on course to become Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, has made few campaign promises, beyond ruling out any major tax increases after the Conservatives raised taxation to levels common in other west European countries but unprecedented in peacetime in the UK. But he has been clear that the country will not be rejoining the European Union, nor the single market and customs union.

Just before voting began, 61-year-old Sir Keir was asked if he could see any circumstances in which that could change in his lifetime but replied “no, I don’t think that is going to happen”, even as he promised a “new age of hope”

Labour would be prepared to agree to follow European rules on food and chemicals, in an attempt to improve the UK’s trade position and encourage a thaw in post-Brexit relations with the EU. But any step that would require freedom of movement of people has been ruled out.

Brexit has become a toxic issue in British politics, largely blamed for the rise of Boris Johnson, who set out to rule unbound by rules made in Brussels -or indeed any rules at all. His downfall led to the short-lived but disastrous premiership of Liz Truss who believed that even the rules of economics could be broken with impunity.

Rishi Sunak was left to lead the Conservative party to electoral annihilation after 14 years in power. The exit poll gives it just 131 of Westminster’s 650 members of parliament. They won’t take defeat well and are likely to double-down on Euroscepticism in opposition.

Both Labour and the Conservatives are easily spooked by Nigel Farage’s populist politics, especially if he finally becomes an MP. They’re very aware of how in a few years, Marine Le Pen has gone from having a handful of deputies in the French National Assembly to her National Rally becoming the biggest party.

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So, Farage’s expected tiny group of Reform UK MPs will have an influence beyond their numbers, more so than the much more numerous Liberal Democrats, who are willing to contemplate a return to the single market and customs union. The much-reduced Scottish National Party group will continue to advocate EU membership, preferably for an independent Scotland.

The Greens and the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru will also continue to keep the pro-European faith but change in mainstream attitudes at Westminster will come only slowly. The vast intake of new Labour MPs is mostly made up of people who deeply regret Brexit and would love to undo it or at least reverse some of the damage. But their voices are not yet important enough to influence ‘the new age of hope’ promised by Sir Keir Starmer.

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EU Reporter publishes articles from a variety of outside sources which express a wide range of viewpoints. The positions taken in these articles are not necessarily those of EU Reporter.

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