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Keir Starmer has embarked on an international tour to garner global support for Labour’s immigration plans to “smash criminal trafficking gangs”, which is expected to include meetings with Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau.
The Labour leader and Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, will start with talks at The Hague on Thursday with officials from the EU’s law enforcement agency, Europol, and others about how a future Labour government would tackle people-smuggling supply chains through greater cross-border cooperation.
Starmer will then fly to Montreal for a gathering of centre-left and progressive politicians, where he is expected to meet the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, before a meeting with the French president next week in Paris.
Tackling undocumented immigration will be a key theme of the meetings, at which Starmer will seek to draw on his experience of tackling cross-border smuggling gangs as the UK’s director of public prosecutions. Catherine De Bolle, the executive director of Europol, will be present in the meeting.
In Montreal, he will be talking with centre-left peers about what he sees as key threats to be addressed, including the climate crisis, terrorism, international criminal gangs and people-trafficking. He will also talk about the threat from hostile states and the perils face by democracy, as Labour and other parties of the left grapple with how to offer compelling policies on immigration to voters being tempted by populist alternatives.
Keen to burnish Starmer’s credentials on the world stage as a prime minister in waiting, Labour will say it is better placed for a reset with partners including France as it aims to reach new agreements on issues such as migrant returns.
A Labour source said: “We would also point out the work that Keir Starmer has done previously when it comes to dealing with some of these international cross-border crime issues.
“For example, when he was director of public prosecutions when it came to looking at issues of guns and drugs.”
Labour’s proposals to limit the number of people crossing the Channel, first reported by the Sunday Times, come amid a perception within the party that Rishi Sunak’s government is vulnerable over the issue of small boats, given Conservative policies have thus far failed to reduce the number of crossings.
Labour opposes the Sunak policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda. It would dismantle the policy and divert the resulting funds into the National Crime Agency. It aims to use improved policing and cooperation with other countries as a means to reduce numbers of refugees crossing the Channel, as well as setting up some official asylum routes.
The Élysée Palace in Paris confirmed on Wednesday that Macron would receive Starmer next week in a meeting designed to ensure that France’s “strategic relationship” with Britain is well placed to continue, no matter who wins the next UK election.
“They have not had a formal meeting before so this will be an opportunity for them to get to know each other,” said a Labour source.
Macron is reported to have informed Sunak on the sidelines of the G20 summit that he would meet Starmer.
Labour will be hoping for a meeting in the White House with Joe Biden in the coming months. Labour is said to be heavily influenced by “Bidenomics” and the US president’s landmark green subsidy push.
The shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, had a pivotal meeting earlier this year in Washington DC, where she sought advice from Democrats on problems the Biden administration has had in implementing green subsidies.