Labour’s Starmer slams lack of UK-EU cooperation over Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act

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LONDON — Labour leader Keir Starmer on Monday bemoaned a lack of cooperation between London and Brussels over the response to Joe Biden’s flagship Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — warning Britain has “drifted off the international stage.”

Starmer said during a City of London speech that the Labour Party — on track to form the next U.K. government based on current polling — would “reverse that” drift and that Britain would “be a part of the discussions” if he becomes prime minister.

Biden’s plan will see nearly $400 billion in subsidies and tax credits to boost green infrastructure and manufacturing. But it has been criticized as “protectionist” by the U.K. government for being primarily available to U.S. firms.

The policy has been a major bone of contention between Brussels and Washington, with the EU drawing up its own plan in a bid to protect European electric car manufacturers.

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There have been widespread concerns in the British private sector that U.K. firms could fall between the cracks of the two major spending plans and be at a competitive disadvantage.

Starmer said Labour’s proposed policy to spend £28 billion a year on green manufacturing subsidies would “address the issues that the IRA is addressing in America” and promised his party “will build on those plans.”

“At Davos it was discussed up hill, down dale,” Starmer said, referencing his own recent attendance at the elite economic gathering. “My sadness at Davos is the fact that the U.K. wasn’t part of that discussion,” Starmer added.

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch told a POLITICO event last week that she is speaking with the Biden administration about potential carve-outs for British businesses.

She also waved away concerns that the U.K. has been shut out of the EU’s response, but stopped short of promising a competing plan to help British firms.

“The EU is very worried and we’re working jointly with them on it,” she said. “It’s not just the EU doing stuff and we’re not in the room.”

She said of the Biden act: “I don’t think it’s a good idea, not just because it’s protectionist. But it also creates a single point of failure in a different place, when actually what we want is diversification and strengthening of supply chains across the board.”

Starmer used his speech Monday to flesh out a promise to make the U.K. the fastest growing economy in the G7, after lagging down the bottom of the table post pandemic.

He is promising green manufacturing subsidies, improved skills and training policy, a promise to cut red tape for British firms exporting to the EU, and a “modern industrial strategy.”

The governing Tories dismissed Starmer’s pledges, with Conservative Chairman Greg Hands saying the Labour Party had left public debt “spiraling” during its last stint in office.

“Starmer’s Labour are too weak to stand up for the British people, let alone bring forward a credible plan for the economy,” Hands added.