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Brussels chiefs signal desire for closer UK partnership after Starmer victory

05 Jul 2024 5 minute read
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer Photo Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Brussels chiefs have signalled that they want a closer partnership with the UK following Sir Keir Starmer’s General Election victory.

Eight years since the Brexit vote, European Council president Charles Michel said the UK and Europe are “crucial partners” as he congratulated the Labour leader, who has ruled out rejoining the Customs Union in his lifetime.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky described the UK as “reliable allies through thick and thin” as he wished the incoming government “every success”.

Other leaders include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was among the first to share a message and described Sir Keir as “my friend”, adding that he hopes to build a “progressive, fair future” with the UK.

Mr Michel declared that Sir Keir’s election would mark a “new cycle” for the UK as he looked forward to working together on “common challenges”.

Sir Keir has previously ruled out rejoining the European single market or customs union, with senior shadow cabinet minster Jonathan Reynolds stating the party would not “re-open the wounds of the past”.


European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she wants a “constructive partnership” with the incoming Labour government.

She said: “I look forward to working with you in a constructive partnership to address common challenges and strengthen European security.”

Speaking on the campaign trail Sir Keir confirmed the UK would not return to freedom of movement.

“(The European Union and UK) are crucial partners, cooperating in all areas of mutual interest for our citizens,” Mr Michel posted to X.

“I look forward to working with you and your government in this new cycle for the UK.

“See you soon in the European Political Community meeting on 18 July in the UK where we will discuss common challenges, including stability, security, energy and migration.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “pleased with our first discussion” in relation to Sir Keir.

“We will continue the work begun with the UK for our bilateral co-operation, for peace and security in Europe, for the climate and for AI,” the French leader said.

One of the key issues Sir Keir will face in the early days of his premiership will be the war in Gaza, this was highlighted by several of its candidates losing to independent challengers campaigning on a pro-Palestine platform.

Sir Keir was heckled with shouts of “Free Palestine” both at the polling station in his Holborn and St Pancras constituency and at his election count as he was declared to have won his seat.

Israeli president Isaac Herzog said he looked forward to working with him to bring home hostages taken by Hamas, whilst also expressing his “deepest appreciation and gratitude” to outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“I send my warmest congratulations to (Sir Keir),” Mr Herzog posted to X.

“As he prepares to enter Downing Street as Prime Minister, I look forward to working together with him and his new government to bring our hostages home, to build a better future for the region, and to deepen the close friendship between Israel and the United Kingdom.”

Mr Herzog also thanked Mr Sunak “for his leadership and for standing with the Israeli people especially during this most difficult period”.

In its manifesto, the Labour party has committed to recognising a Palestinian state.

Writing on X, President Zelensky said: “Ukraine and the United Kingdom have been and will continue to be reliable allies through thick and thin. We will continue to defend and advance our common values of life, freedom, and a rules-based international order.

“I wish the incoming government every success both in domestic affairs and in solidifying the UK’s leadership on the world stage. I look forward to working closely together on strengthening the Ukraine-UK partnership and restoring international peace and security.”

He added his thanks to his “good friend” Rishi Sunak, as he praised the UK Government’s “steadfast support” under his leadership.

“Congratulations, (Sir Keir), on a historic U.K. election victory,” Mr Trudeau posted to X.

“Lots of work ahead to build a more progressive, fair future for people on both sides of the Atlantic. Let’s get to it, my friend.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also described the soon-to-be prime minister as “a friend”, adding that he is looking forward to working constructively with Sir Keir.

“Congratulations to my friend and new UK Prime Minister (Sir Keir) on his resounding election victory – I look forward to working constructively with the incoming (Labour) Government,” Mr Albanese posted to X.

Sir Keir will also be scrutinised over his approach to Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, and Kaja Kallas, the Prime Minister of Russian neighbour Estonia, shared a message highlighting “common security”.

“Congratulations on your historic election victory, (Sir Keir),” Ms Kallas posted to X.

“Estonia and the UK are the strongest of allies and the closest of friends. The UK’s commitment to our common security is valued by every Estonian.

“I’m sure our excellent cooperation will only continue to thrive.”

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