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Mandelson dismisses prospect of UK rejoining EU

The EU wanted a more “stable, constructive relationship” with the UK, Mandelson continued, but there was no desire in Brussels for wholesale negotiation of the country’s return…reports Asian Lite News

Peter Mandelson has dismissed the prospect of an incoming Labour government taking Britain back into the EU, saying “you’ve got to be joking” that Brussels would want to renegotiate the UK’s membership.

The Labour peer, a former EU trade commissioner and close adviser to Keir Starmer, said rejoining the 27-country bloc would require a referendum that UK voters had little desire for, after the Conservatives’ botched handling of Brexit.

“I cannot see the British people running towards [a referendum] for love nor money after what we went through during the last one. I really do not think that people are going to run towards a repeat of that experience,” he told a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) event at Heathrow airport on Wednesday.

Lord Mandelson, speaking at the launch of the lobby group’s report on building “Global Britain” after the general election, added that a Starmer government would build closer ties with the EU without rejoining.

The EU wanted a more “stable, constructive relationship” with the UK, Mandelson continued, but there was no desire in Brussels for wholesale negotiation of the country’s return.

“Reopen a negotiation? You’ve got to be joking,” he said. “They [the EU] have got other priorities. They have other fish to fry now. And they’re not going to go through the back-and-forth, up-and-down, seesaw motion; or another protracted, probably hard fought over, and indecisive negotiation with Britain. So that’s simply answered.”

His comments come after the BCC called for politicians to “step out of Brexit’s long shadow” and prioritise trade, including through closer ties with the UK’s single largest trading partner.

Martha Lane Fox, the tech entrepreneur and president of the BCC, said there was often a reluctance among politicians to either recognise problems or suggest solutions because of how they may be viewed either side of the Brexit divide.

“This must stop. Our politicians must be bolder in their decision making. They must set out a strategy on how we manage EU regulation and, where it makes sense, to diverge so that British business can benefit,” she said.

Mandelson said Brexit had triggered a “rollercoaster ride of instability, a merry-go-round of changing ministers” that had left the British economy “travelling along with one arm behind our backs”.

Speaking to business leaders in the headquarters of the company responsible for operating Heathrow, overlooking the airport’s northern runway, the former business secretary under Tony Blair said Labour would not follow the Conservatives’ post-Brexit strategy of chasing free trade deals around the world.

However, he said there was a danger that Britain could become “stranded” between a possible Donald Trump administration in the US and weaker post-Brexit relationship with Brussels.

“There is a danger that we become stranded, or that we become collateral damage in what could become quite an escalating tension,” he said.

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