Eyeing power, UK's Starmer tells Macron he wants closer relations with France

FILE PHOTO: Leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer speaks at an event in London

PARIS (Reuters) - Britain's opposition leader Keir Starmer told French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday that he wanted to build an "even stronger" relationship between the two countries if he wins power at a national election expected next year.

Starmer meet Macron at the Elysee Palace for a meeting days after he traveled to Canada and the Hague as he builds his international profile and foreign policy experience.

"We had a very political discussion, covering a lot of issues to do with global politics," Starmer told reporters after the meeting.

"If we are privileged enough to be elected into power, I intend to build on that relationship and make it even stronger than it is today."

Macron's office said they discussed strengthening cooperation between the two countries, the economy, energy security and the war in Ukraine.

At the weekend, Starmer said he would seek a "much better" trade deal with the European Union if he wins the next election.

Polls show Starmer's Labour Party is on course to defeat Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's governing Conservatives, who have been in power since 2010 and are dealing with a cost-of-living crisis, persistently high inflation and a stagnating economy.

Starmer, who campaigned to stay in the EU and once pushed for a second Brexit referendum, told the Financial Times the current trade with the bloc is "far too thin" and he wants a closer trading relationship.

Analysts have said Starmer will find it hard to reach a successful renegotiation with the EU unless he is willing to significantly change Britain's trading relationship with the EU such as joining the bloc's customs union or single market.

UK in a Changing Europe, a think-tank, said there is little incentive for the EU to renegotiate current arrangements because there is a "Brexit fatigue" among members and they have other priorities such as the war in Ukraine and tensions with China.

Since Starmer was elected Labour leader two years ago, he has ruled out rejoining the customs union, single market or a holding a second referendum on EU membership, which he said would reopen "old wounds".

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten, William Maclean)