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Keir Starmer Promises Industry Leaders Labour Is A "Reliable Partner" For Global Business

Keir Starmer spoke at Labour’s International Trade Reception on Monday evening (Alamy)

4 min read

Keir Starmer told international business leaders that Labour is a “reliable partner” in global trade and industry at a reception in Westminster on Monday evening.

The Labour leader met with ambassadors, diplomats and senior figures from global businesses at Labour’s International Trade Reception, the first event of its kind for the party. 

Starmer hoped to show Labour is “pro-trade, pro-business and pro-worker” ahead of the next general election, which must be called before the end of 2024. 

Labour has made a concerted effort under Starmer's leadership to pitch itself as "the party of business", notably attracting a number of leading global firms back to its party conference last September.

The shift in tone has allowed the opposition party to capitalise on criticism of the government's handling of Brexit, which a number of senior industry figures have said has had a negative impact on UK business. Last week Confederation of Business Industry head Tony Danker accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of prioritising internal party politics over the priorities of businesses. 

On Monday Starmer described backing private enterprise as a “matter of conviction for me”.

“The Labour Party understands that backing private enterprise is the only way Britain pays its way in the world,” he said, claiming that he had “united” the party behind this concept.

“So our task now is to do the 'hard yards' of raising productivity right across our country. Which can only mean we need more export-led business, more trading businesses, more inward investment," Starmer continued. 

“We need to project an open stance to the world, keep working to reduce trade frictions, and show Britain is always open for business.”

He also pledged to “transform” how the British state goes about its business: “It’s simple really - every business here has a strategy for growth, a nation needs one too.”

The event hosted more than 100 Ambassadors and High Commissioners, including representatives from all G7 countries, as well as more than 200 British and global businesses from a range of sectors, including Bloomberg, Barclays, the Premier League, and HSBC. 

The Labour leader and the shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves also attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this month to promote the idea of a Clean Power Alliance should Labour win the next general election.

Starmer criticised Sunak, for not showing up to Davos – although he was not the only world leader to not attend, with US president Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also absent. 

Speaking on Monday evening at the trade reception, Starmer said Labour would partner with global businesses and take a “global leadership role” on climate issues.

He referenced his announcement at Labour’s 2022 party conference that Britain would have 100 per cent clean power generation by 2030 with a Labour government.

“Clean British energy is nine times cheaper than imported fossil fuels, but it must be backed by investment: public and private. [It needs] a new sovereign wealth fund, a national champion energy company, and a smarter grid,” he said.

“The great challenges we face go well beyond our borders, the solutions must as well. 

"My Labour Government will be a reliable partner, a dependable ally, a good neighbour… but we will also seek a global leadership role on climate change. 

“We will set up a Clean Power Alliance that advocates for cheaper renewable energy, all across the globe and position ourselves as a green growth superpower.  A British power stance that is open, co-operative, determined to make a difference… one that leads on the biggest global challenge of all.”

The Premier League trophy was on display at the reception, and Starmer, a lifelong Arsenal fan, joked: “And thank you to the Premier League for bringing Arsenal’s next trophy down!

“Anyway – that trophy is here as the perfect symbol of Britain’s global reach, and I think this room serves as the perfect symbol of Labour’s growing reach… A vision of a changed party.”

Starmer delivered his speech at a difficult time for many UK businesses: A host of sectors including construction, hospitality, agriculture and manufacturing continue to experience chronic staff shortages, in part because the Covid pandemic forced many foreign workers to leave the UK, and post-Brexit immigration rules then made it more difficult for them to return.

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