Starmer says Labour will have ‘different way of doing politics’ as he tours UK nations | Politics News

Sir Keir Starmer has said his government will have a “different way of doing politics” as he toured the UK’s nations in his first week as prime minister.

The UK’s new leader said it is “very important” for him to “reset relations” with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

He kicked off his tour of the devolved nations’ capitals on Sunday, visiting Edinburgh, then headed to Belfast and Cardiff on Monday.

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Sir Keir met Northern Ireland’s first minister Michelle O’Neill and her deputy Emma Little-Pengelly on Monday morning before holding meetings with delegations from the five main Stormont parties.

After a tumultuous two years of impasse over post-Brexit trading arrangements, Stormont’s power-sharing agreement was reinstated in February but the trade accord remains a sticking point for the DUP.

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(L to R) Northern Ireland Secretary Hilary Benn, First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly and PM Sir Keir Starmer at Stormont Castle in Belfast. Pic: PA

Nationalists Sinn Fein became Northern Ireland’s largest party in Westminster on Thursday with seven seats, although those MPs will still not take their seats in the House of Commons.

Sir Keir told reporters in Stormont his visit to Belfast is “a clear statement of intent about the importance of Northern Ireland”.

He said it is about “resetting relationships and moving forward in a respectful, collaborative way”.

“We have had very constructive and positive discussions this morning,” he added.

“I have been very clear that my government has a mandate for change, for stability here in Northern Ireland and a different way of doing politics.”

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Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer meeting First Minister of Scotland John Swinney at Bute House, Edinburgh, during the PM's tour of the UK following Labour's victory in the 2024 General Election. Picture date: Sunday July 7, 2024.
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Sir Keir Starmer met Scottish First Minister John Swinney at his official residence in Bute House, Edinburgh, on Sunday. Pic: PA

A ‘better Brexit deal’

Sir Keir has said his government can secure a “better deal” on post-Brexit trading, but he said only if the UK can demonstrate a willingness to operate within the existing agreement for Northern Ireland.

Currently, checks and additional red tape on the movement of goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland are required.

Asked if his goal is to secure a trade deal where the entire UK interacts with the EU on the same basis, Sir Keir said: “We think we can get a better deal than the botched deal that Boris Johnson brought home and we will work on that, understanding the work that needs to be done and the nature of the challenge.”

Sir Keir said his government is committed to improving relations between the UK and Ireland.

Pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside Bute House, the first minister's Edinburgh home, as Sir Keir had a meeting with Mr Swinney. Pic: PA
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Pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside Bute House, the first minister’s Edinburgh home, as Sir Keir had a meeting with Mr Swinney. Pic: PA

He vowed to make good on his manifesto pledge to repeal legacy laws introduced by the Tory government that offer a limited form of immunity for perpetrators of Troubles crimes.

“I treat the mandate that I was given in the general election as a mandate for doing politics differently, a mandate for stability, much-needed stability,” he said.

“I think one of the big problems of the last 14 years, but particularly the last six to eight years, has been instability, a lot of chopping and changing.

“That all ends today.”

He also said he was committed to the Good Friday agreement when asked about an Irish unification referendum.

The agreement states that the Northern Ireland secretary can call a border poll when they believe a majority of people support a change to the constitutional status, so it is unlikely a referendum will happen soon.

Labour a ‘game changer’ for Wales

Sir Keir headed to Wales on Monday afternoon where he met Labour’s Welsh First Minister Vaughan Gething at the Senedd in Cardiff.

The prime minister promised to place the Welsh people “front and centre” after Labour wiped out the Conservatives in Wales for the first time since 2001.

Sir Keir met Vaughan Gething in the Senedd, Cardiff. Pic: PA
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Sir Keir met Vaughan Gething in the Senedd, Cardiff. Pic: PA

He said his Labour government “will be a game changer” for Wales as they will work with the Welsh government “delivering for Wales rather than the conflict we’ve seen too much of over the last 14 years”.

“This is an early recommitment to what I said in the campaign to come here physically on the third day, to have discussions with the first minister about the long-term objectives and, of course, about some of the pressing issues,” he said.

Sir Keir said that included Tata Steel in Port Talbot, where about 2,800 jobs are at imminent risk.

His government and the Welsh government are pushing Tata to not pursue any compulsory redundancies, promising extra funding for the UK’s steel industry.

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