Emily Thornberry has said Labour will soon start to set out how it would “repair” Boris Johnson’s “thin” trade deal with the EU.
The shadow international trade secretary told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast that six months on from it being agreed, it was clear there were more than just “teething problems”.
But she said Labour was “not going to start arguing we need to get back into the EU”.
Thornberry said Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, was like the “secretary of state for a doughnut”, because she focused on “trade but not Europe”.
“She will take no responsibility for patching the deal that we really need, which is the biggest trade deal, which is the trade deal with the EU, which has great glaring holes,” Thornberry said.
“You can’t see her for dust. She won’t engage on the issue of trade with Europe.
“We need to repair this really thin deal. It’s like gossamer. The deal we have at the moment with the EU.
“You’d think the secretary of state for international trade would take some responsibility for making sure those holes are repaired.
“Six months out from the deal we can now start saying: ‘when you say this is a teething problem it obviously isn’t,’ she said.
“It’s becoming more obvious, more manifest, what the problems are with the deal.
“It was all covered by by Covid and by the government continually telling us it was just teething problems.
“When businesses come to see me, and they do all the time, and tell me they’ve got this problem, we can start putting together evidence of what the problem is, how it isn’t a teething problem, how it needs to be fixed, and start challenging the government on what they should do.
Thornberry added Labour would go beyond “challenging” the government and start “telling them what we think they should do and hoping they do do it”.
But she said the party was “not going to start saying we need to get back into the EU” because the UK ”won’t be able to join on the same terms that we left”.
“We would have to join the Euro, we’d probably have to join Schengen, we wouldn’t get our rebate.”
“It isn’t in as we used to be, in or out,” she said. “We have a deal now what we need to do now is make sure that deal works. But it’s substandard. So we need to make sure we patch it.”
Thornberry accused the government of having “dead eyes” and lacking a “proper strategy” when it came to trading and dealing with China, especially the CPTPP trade deal.
The bloc is made up of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The UK government has launched accession negotiations. China has also indicated it might ask to join.
“We’ve moved out of one big trade bloc and we seem to be about to move back into another one,” Thornberry said. “They just don’t seem to be thinking this stuff through.”
Thornberry also met the Taiwanese representative in the UK on Thursday to discuss “concerns” about “what future China might have in relation to” CPTPP.
She said there would be “continue to be engagement with Taiwan” even it irritated Beijing.
“I don’t believe the Chinese government is so lacking in pragmatism they really expect to push Taiwan off the island and into the sea, I mean it’s not going to happen is it,” Thornberry added.
“We should just be consistent and we should just be straight forward,” she said. “And just say we want to be able to work with China but frankly there are things we disagree with.”
In the interview with Commons People, Thornberry said Labour needed to “speak clearly and confidently with one voice” in order to beat the Conservative Party.
“We need to stick together. I personally don’t think we should be picking fights with each other. I don’t think it’s necessary,” she said. “We need to make it clear we like ourselves and like each other. That shouldn’t be impossible.
“Sometimes I think there with some people, I’m not naming any names, sometimes I do wonder the amount of kind of venom that some people seem to chuck at one another, other comrades, you just think, ‘just throw a tenth of that at the Tories and you’d be a really good politician.’