ir Keir Starmer said “we don’t want to diverge” from EU rules as he spoke at a conference of centre-left leaders in Canada.
The more the UK and Brussels “share a future together” the less friction there will be between the two, he can be seen suggesting in footage obtained by Sky News.
The Labour leader has hinted he would seek to align Britain more closely with the bloc if he wins power but has exercised caution in discussing these plans.
Speaking at an international summit of “progressive” politicians including Canadian PM Justin Trudeau over the weekend, he was more explicit about what his vision for such a relationship might involve.
“Most of the conflict with the UK being outside of the (EU) arises insofar as the UK wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners,” he said.
“Obviously the more we share values, the more we share a future together, the less the conflict, and actually, different ways of solving problems become available.
“Actually we don’t want to diverge, we don’t want to lower standards, we don’t want to rip up environmental standards, working standards for people that work, food standards and all the rest of it.
“Suddenly you’re in a space where notwithstanding the obvious fact that we are outside the EU and not in the EEA, there’s a lot more common ground than you might think.”
The comments are likely to reignite debate about the nature of post-Brexit relations with Brussels.
Labour will be seeking to win back parts of the electorate who voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, and discussion of strengthening ties has been approached with caution so far.
Some argue that closer alignment with Brussels would ease trade, while others believe it will burden Britain with unnecessary red tape.
Experts have warned that Sir Keir risks demanding more than the EU is willing to offer in seeking a better deal for the UK, given the bloc’s relative satisfaction with the terms of the current Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).
It draws a clear dividing line between Opposition and Government, with the Labour leader’s latest remarks already attracting ire from Tory MPs and ministers.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “Keir voted remain. Then he backed a second referendum. Then he didn’t. Now he wants to rejoin the EU in all but name. What does Labour stand for?”
Tory MP Simon Clarke said: “The whole point of Brexit is our ability to do things differently. From our vaccine roll-out to freeports to solvency rules to our membership of the CPTPP, we are already demonstrating why this matters.
“Being a rule-taker, blindly following the EU, would be a disastrous mistake.”