LABOUR leader Keir Starmer has claimed that the UK’s “competitors” in Europe are “nicking our dinner money” and “eating our lunch”.

Writing in an article penned for the right-wing Express newspaper, Starmer claimed that Brexit could work if it weren’t for the failures implicit in the “paper-thin Tory deal”.

However, he did not say he wanted to undo anything in the deal, which was struck by Boris Johnson’s Tory government and later amended by Rishi Sunak’s. Instead, Starmer suggested he wanted to use it as a base to be “built upon”.

The Labour leader wrote: “There is no point pretending everything is working fine. The paper-thin Tory deal has stifled Britain’s potential and hugely weighted trade terms towards the EU.

“Every day it isn’t built upon, our European friends and competitors aren’t just eating our lunch – they’re nicking our dinner money as well.”

The current post-Brexit deal with the EU was first tabled by Johnson’s Tory government in December 2020. Starmer voted for it, and whipped his Labour MPs to do the same.

Aspects of the deal which led to concerns in Northern Ireland were later altered by Sunak’s government as they struck the new “Windsor Framework”. Starmer voted for that as well.

But the Labour leader used the Express column to attack it nonetheless.

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“At last count, the failure of the Tories’ Brexit deal has left British households spending almost £7 billion extra on food,” he wrote. “In normal times this would be ridiculous: during a cost of living crisis, where prices have gone through the roof, it’s unforgivable.”

Despite promising to build upon the deal to improve it, Starmer also shut many of the doors which could allow a future Labour government to do just that.

“Britain’s future is outside the EU. Not in the single market, not in the customs union, not with a return to freedom of movement. Those arguments are in the past, where they belong,” he wrote.

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SNP MP Alan Brown (above) pulled the Labour leader up on this point, writing on Twitter: “This guy has become a parody of himself.

“Everyone except entrenched leavers know that just saying ‘Labour will make Brexit work’ while staying outside [the] customs union and single market means nothing changes.”

His colleague, SNP MP Pete Wishart said Starmer’s article showed the next General Election would shape up to be “a matter of who voters in the ‘red wall’ think will make ‘Brexit work’ best”.

He added: “Brexit can’t work. It wasn’t designed to…”

Other Twitter users accused Starmer of performing a “Johnson tribute act” and questioned why he felt the need to take on Tory policies, given the unpopularity of the UK Government.

Starmer has previously faced intense criticism for writing for right-wing papers, especially the Sun – an outlet he claimed he “certainly” wouldn’t be talking to during a campaign speech in Liverpool.

The Sun is widely boycotted in the Labour stronghold in Merseyside for its reporting on the Hillsborough disaster, but Starmer wrote an op-ed for it in October 2021.

The Labour leader has also drawn more recent criticism for saying he does “not care” if he sounds Conservative.