Labour Government working with Germany on moving closer to EU, says Berlin

David Lammy meets with Annalena Baerbock, Germany's foreign minister
David Lammy meets with Annalena Baerbock, Germany's foreign minister - FCDO/Ben Dance

The Government is working with Germany to see how Britain “can move closer to the EU”, Berlin’s foreign ministry said.

In remarks made as David Lammy headed for his first overseas visit as Foreign Secretary, the official Twitter account for Germany’s foreign office said: “The United Kingdom is our close friend and partner. Together we stand up for democracy and freedom in the world.”

It added: “The United Kingdom is an indispensable part of Europe. Whether in science, culture or security – (Germany) and (Britain) work closely together: We are working with the new UK Government to see how the UK can move closer to the EU.”

Mr Lammy, who voted Remain and advocated for a second Brexit referendum, said ahead of his trip that it was time to “put the Brexit years behind us”.

Speaking in the Foreign Office, he told The Guardian: “We are not going to rejoin the Single Market and the customs union but there is much that we can do together.”

He added: “I want to be absolutely clear, European nations are our friends.”

‘European friends and allies’

The Foreign Secretary will also travel to Poland and Sweden to meet his counterparts before the UK hosts the European Political Community summit in a fortnight.

Mr Lammy said in the aftermath of the meeting that it was “time to reset our relationship with our European friends and allies”.

He and Annalena Baerbock, German foreign minister, discussed security in Europe, as well as support for Ukraine.

Mr Lammy also shared a photograph of the pair watching England play Switzerland in the Euros.

Labour has pledged to “improve” the UK-EU trade deal agreed by Boris Johnson’s government in 2020.

In particular, Rachel Reeves, the Chancellor, has said that Labour would look to strike deals in the chemical and veterinary sectors.

‘Closer relationship’

Sir Keir Starmer has previously called for closer ties with the bloc on education, defence and security.

He said in May: “We’ve got to take that on, a closer relationship, I think not just in trade but also I think in defence. I think there’s huge scope for closer work on defence and security. And also education, by the way, I think we could do a lot closer work on.”

A potential area of agreement could be rejoining the Erasmus student exchange programme, which has seen millions of students spend time in EU countries as part of their university degrees.

Following the Brexit deal, Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, said that Britain’s decision not to participate in the Erasmus programme was one of his main regrets in terms of social cooperation between the UK and Europe.

Ms Baerbock and Mr Lammy said in a joint statement: “We are tackling today’s challenges side by side: boosting our defence in Nato, supporting Ukraine, and working for peace in the Middle East. Together we are joining forces to uphold democracy and freedom around the world.”