Accessibility links

Breaking News

New British PM pledges to improve 'botched' EU trade deal


British Prime Minister Keir Starmer speaks to media at the Stormont Parliament Buildings, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, July 8, 2024.
British Prime Minister Keir Starmer speaks to media at the Stormont Parliament Buildings, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, July 8, 2024.

Britain's new Prime Minister Keir Starmer pledged Monday to negotiate a trade agreement with the European Union and to improve the Brexit deal, which he criticized as "botched" under former prime minister Boris Johnson.

Starmer embarked on a two-day tour of the United Kingdom Sunday, calling it an "immediate reset" with the governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

In Belfast, Starmer addressed the issue of post-Brexit trade rules, saying, "We think we can get a better deal than the botched deal that Boris Johnson brought home, and we will work on that."

He stressed the importance of first making changes under the current agreement to build trust with the EU.

"We're not going to be able to improve our relationship unless we show commitment to the agreements that have already been put in place," Starmer added.

The Labour Party has ruled out rejoining the EU single market or customs union but aims to reduce trade barriers with the 27-nation bloc, from which Britain withdrew in 2020.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Northern Ireland's largest pro-British party, ended a boycott of the region’s assembly after tweaks to trading rules secured by former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in February, but the party continue to push for further changes.

Addressing the possibility of a referendum on a United Ireland following significant gains by Irish nationalists Sinn Fein in Parliament, Starmer pledged to follow the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, which allows for such a referendum under specific conditions.

During his tour, Starmer met with Scottish First Minister John Swinney, emphasizing his administration's commitment to cooperative governance.

“The politics of this Labour government of 2024 is about public service, restoring standards of making sure that we always, always have in our mind's eye the people who elected us into government,” Starmer said.

Amid economic challenges from previous administrations, Starmer's government faces public discontent following years of Conservative rule marked by fiscal austerity and service cuts. He outlined his vision to decentralize power and improve public services.

Starmer says his administration aims to address both domestic and international challenges while pursuing a transformative agenda across the U.K.

"We will serve every single person in Scotland," Starmer told enthusiastic supporters during his visit, emphasizing his dedication to inclusive governance and public service.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

  • 16x9 Image

    VOA News

    The Voice of America provides news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of over 326 million people. Stories with the VOA News byline are the work of multiple VOA journalists and may contain information from wire service reports.