Sir Keir Starmer held a private meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron during his trip to Paris earlier in the week to discuss a number of thorny issues including Britain’s relationship with the EU and the migrant crisis.
This comes as the battle rages in Britain, over the Labour leader’s plans to recast Britain’s relationship with the EU.
Discussing the secret talks, Sir Keir revealed they were “very political”, while the Independent, reported the pair “covered all the difficult issues, not just the pleasantries”.
The Labour leader and his top shadow ministers, Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves and Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, accompanied him to Paris.
Despite the meeting being behind closed doors, it began with an exchange of gifts. Sir Keir presented Mr Macron with a personalised Arsenal shirt, and in return, he received a pair of cufflinks.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Sir Kier said: “We had a very constructive and positive meeting, which as you can imagine covered a wide range of issues.”
He added: “It was my first opportunity to say how much I value the relationship between our two countries, particularly when it comes to prosperity and security and how, if we are privileged enough to be elected into power, intend to build on that relationship and make it even stronger than it is today.”
The controversial meeting in the French capital comes against a growing row in Britain regarding Keir Starmer’s plans to alter the UK’s relationship with the EU.
Speaking at a conference of centre-left leaders in Montreal, Canada, Keir Starmer said he does “not want to diverge” from the bloc’s rule on workers’ rights, food and the environment.
Sir Keir said: “Most of the conflict with the UK being outside of the EU arises in so far as the UK wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners.
“Obviously the more we share values, the more we share a future together, the less the conflict. And actually, different ways of solving problems become available.
“Actually we don’t want to diverge, we don’t want to lower standards, we don’t want to rip up environmental standards, working standards for people that work, food standards and all the rest of it.
“So suddenly, you’re in a space where, notwithstanding the obvious fact that we’re outside the EU and not in the European Economic Area, there’s a lot more common ground than you might think.”
Sir Keir’s remarks drew flak from the Conservatives with Mr Hunt saying the Opposition’s stance “will worry a lot of the people who voted for Brexit”.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “Keir voted Remain. Then he backed a second referendum. Then he didn’t. Now he wants to rejoin the EU in all but name. What does Labour stand for?”
As Tory MPs hit out at his remarks, the Labour leader was forced to tell reporters there was no intention of reversing Brexit, but he added that this “does not mean that a Labour government would lower standards on food or lower the rights that people have at work”.
Both the Montreal meeting and the Paris talks were part of an international tour designed by Labour to portray the Labour leader as a prime minister in waiting.
At the same time, France and Germany were said to be pushing plans to offer Britain “associate membership” of the EU.