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10 March 2023

Sadiq Khan: Britain’s “extreme hard Brexit isn’t working”

The Mayor of London also decried the current arrangement with the EU as being “awful for London”.

By Zoë Grünewald

If Rishi Sunak fails to strike a deal with France on returning small-boat migrants it is proof Britain’s “extreme, hard Brexit isn’t working”, according to Sadiq Khan. Speaking to the New Statesman today (10 March), the Mayor of London said Britain should push for closer alignment with Europe and that the “the current deal we have with the European Union is awful for London”.

Khan’s comments come as the Prime Minister meets with the French president Emmanuel Macron. They are expected to discuss relations between the two states, the small boats crisis and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The test for the extreme, hard Brexit we have,” the Mayor said, “is whether Sunak comes back from the meeting with President Macron with a deal to return those who have come here who should be returned to France. If he doesn’t, that shows the extreme, hard Brexit isn’t working.”

He added that the agreement Sunak struck with the EU on the Northern Ireland protocol at the end of last month, which guarantees single market access for Northern Ireland, shows the government was “trying to fix” EU-UK relations. But it should go further. “It is awful in all sorts of ways, economically, socially and morally – but we also saw that the government is trying to fix the problems in Northern Ireland. What about the rest of us?”

When asked whether he was in discussions with the Labour party leader Keir Starmer over the party’s stance on Brexit, Khan said: “I speak to Keir all the time.” Then he added: “What Keir is trying to do is to make sure that we respect the results of the referendum, but we also repair the hard, extreme Brexit that we have. That means closer alignment with the European Union, rather than what we currently have.”

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[See also: Keir Starmer to open the New Statesman’s Politics Live conference]

Khan had been speaking at the London Victims’ Summit, where he announced the introduction of an annual £3m fund to overhaul how London’s Metropolitan Police treats victims of crime. The package will include measures like ensuring timely case updates and streamlining referrals to specialist services. “For too long, victims have been an afterthought rather than being integral to the justice system, and it’s a system imposed on victims rather than a service,” Khan told the New Statesman after the plans were unveiled.

When asked how women could trust the system to effectively deliver a better standard of support for victims, following a series of misogyny, racism and violence scandals in the Met, Khan acknowledged that the “trust and confidence, particularly among women, has plummeted in the recent past”. But he was encouraged by the new Met commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley who “understands the scale of the challenges and has a turnaround plan to address that”.

The Mayor also said that the vetting of police officers has “got to improve”, and that he was working with the College of Policing and the Home Office to find solutions. “We’ve got to sort it out to make sure the right people are joining, and while they’re in employment they will have regular check-ins. Not just in relation [to] vetting every one or ten years, but also in real time, such as WhatsApp groups, mobile phones and so forth.”

Read more:

Rishi Sunak can’t win his fight on the small boats bill

When will the BBC get over its fear of the right-wing press?

Rishi Sunak is moving at speed – but can he outpace the spectre of Boris Johnson?

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