Sir Keir Starmer has insisted there is “no case” for rejoining the EU’s single market in a rebuke to Sadiq Khan. The Labour leader’s comments come after the London Mayor claimed Brexit is doing “immense damage” to the UK and demanded “greater alignment” with Brussels.
Speaking to the BBC’s Newsnight at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Sir Keir said he wants a “closer relationship” with the EU.
But the Labour leader ruled out rejoining the bloc or the single market.
He said: “We would accept that the deal that Johnson got is not a good deal and you can see the impact it is having on our economy.
“And that is why we have been clear we want a closer relationship with the EU.
“That starts with the protocol in Northern Ireland, it then goes into a discussion about how close we can be.
“We can’t go back into the EU, there isn’t a political case for going back into the EU or the single market.
“But I am having discussions about what a closer trading relationship might look like.”
Sir Keir’s comments will be seen as a slap down to Mr Khan for trying to drag the UK back into the EU’s single market.
In a speech at Mansion House earlier this month, the London Mayor blasted the Government’s “denial and avoidance”.
He said: “I simply can’t keep quiet about the immense damage Brexit is doing.
“Ministers seem to have developed selective amnesia when it comes to one of the root causes of our problems.
“Brexit can’t be airbrushed out of history or the consequences wished away.”
Mr Khan also called for a “pragmatic debate about the benefits of being a part of the customs union and the single market”.
He said: “After two years of denial and avoidance, we must now confront the hard truth: Brexit isn’t working.
“It’s weakened our economy, fractured our union and diminished our reputation. But, crucially, not beyond repair.
“We need greater alignment with our European neighbours – a shift from this extreme, hard Brexit we have now to a workable version that serves our economy and people.
“That includes having a pragmatic debate about the benefits of being a part of the customs union and the single market.”
Although Mr Khan’s criticism was aimed at the Tories, it was also seen as a swipe at Sir Keir.
The Labour leader, who campaigned for Remain in 2016 before pushing for a second referendum, has recently taken a hardline stance on Brexit.