The Labour Movement for Europe (LME) says the economic hit from leaving the EU is now clear to the public, which would reward a party brave enough to propose concrete ways to rebuild links.
Sir Keir has sought to shut down debate on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal – blamed for sharp falls in trade and investment and rising food prices – fearing a backlash from the ‘red wall’ voters Labour needs to win back.
But, ahead of a rally at Labour’s conference, LME’s chair, the MP Stella Creasy, said there was “no excuse” for Sir Keir failing to argue for the closer ties badly needed.
In an interview with The Independent, Ms Creasy pointed to the way Labour stole a march by successfully demanding a windfall tax on bumper energy profits, and called for the same bold approach.
“The Brexit the Conservatives are delivering is damaging the country, with really clear consequences for growth, for exports, for productivity,” she said.
“The role of the labour movement is not just to say this is wrong, but to say what we could be doing instead. This can’t wait until we get a Labour government.
“If you want a more productive, more equal society, you have to do more than just challenge Liz Truss. You have to say ‘no, this is how we would rebuild this relationship’.”
In Liverpool, LME – backed by 40 per cent of Labour MPs and the party’s second biggest affiliated society – will put forward an initial three-point plan to:
* Join the Pan-Euro-Mediterranean Convention (PEM) – an agreement between EU nations, plus several in Africa and the Middle East, to recognise the origin of products.
UK firms are paying billions in tariffs to sell in the EU because of rules-of-origin requirements, forcing many to move their operations out and threatening the ceramics and car industries, among others.
* Rejoin the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) – a deal between nine EU countries, plus Norway, to fast-track the development of offshore wind energy and move away from sky-high gas prices.
The Brexit deal proposed cooperation on “offshore grid development and the large renewable energy potential of the North Seas region” – but this has not happened.
* Establish a “security partnership” on threats from hostile states, terrorism, cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns – allowing the UK to attend EU meetings, coordinate on sanctions and share intelligence.
This was proposed in the 2019 political declaration – having been pursued by Theresa May – but was abandoned by Boris Johnson in the negotiations that followed.
Ms Creasy, a former business spokesperson for Labour, said of the three-point plan: “You could do this straight away. There is no excuse not to do this stuff.”
On easing trade barriers, she added: “For manufacturers in my constituency, who are facing massive energy bills and huge amounts of paperwork, that’s what would make the biggest difference.
“They need results because they are going out of business. I had a business come to me the other day – it had to get paperwork for a stock cube.”
All he set out as an alternative plan was to abide by EU standards on food safety and agriculture, in an effort to reduce trade blockages and end the battle over the Northern Ireland protocol.
But Ms Creasy said Sir Keir must and should go further, arguing: “What the public wants now is to know what we would do differently.
“I’m not sitting here wearing a blue beret with gold stars on it, singing ‘Ode to Joy’. This is not about rejoining the European Union or having another referendum.”
LME, whose president is Neil Kinnock, has more than 2,500 members and support from a third of new candidates for the next general election, after it ran its own hustings before selections.
Public disillusionment with Brexit appears to be growing. One poll last month found that 62 per cent of voters believed it was going “badly” – up from 39 per cent after the UK left the EU.