Sir Keir Starmer will on Saturday take a further step to draw a line under the Corbyn era by declaring himself “pro-American”.
Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour was regularly the target of accusations of anti-Americanism based on his long history of criticism of Washington foreign policy, with Conservatives questioning whether he could be trusted to preserve the transatlantic special relationship as prime minister.
But Sir Keir will use a speech to the Fabian Society to say that he is “pro-American but anti-Trump” and wants to build a Britain which can act as “the bridge between the US and the rest of Europe”.
Speaking days ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as US president, Sir Keir will say he is “incredibly optimistic about the new relationship we can build”.
In his first major speech on foreign policy since being elected Labour leader, Sir Keir will say he is committed to a new US-UK relationship, consisting of “a strong future together, on everything from security, climate change, aid and trade”.
And he will go on the attack over Boris Johnson’s foreign affairs record, accusing the prime minister of getting too close to Donald Trump, who leaves office on Wednesday as the first president in US history to be impeached twice and with the threat of prosecution hanging over him.
Mr Johnson has spent the last few years “cosying up to people who don’t have Britain’s interests at heart and courting the idea that he is Britain’s Trump”, Sir Keir will say.
The Labour leader will say that he has a vision of Britain as a “moral force for good in the world” and accuse the Conservatives of overseeing “a decade of global retreat”.
Looking ahead to Inauguration Day, he will say: “This isn’t a normal transition of power from one president to another. The pictures on our TVs in the last few weeks make that clear. The US is more divided than at any time I can remember.
“Amid all that, this is a moment of huge optimism, of hope winning out over hate. And it can also be a turning point. Not just in America but also for Britain’s relationship with the US and for global politics.”
Sir Keir will also attempt to draw a clear contrast with Mr Johnson over Europe, stressing his intention to work closely with the EU.
The Labour leader has drawn criticism from within his own party ranks for refusing to commit to renegotiating Mr Johnson’s Trade and Cooperation Agreement, despite describing it as “thin”.
On the future relationship with the EU, he will say: “I want that to be a close economic relationship, rooted in our values, based on high standards and with protections for businesses, for working people and the environment.
“Of course, Boris Johnson will never do that, he wants something completely different from Brexit. And we’re already seeing that workers’ rights are at risk, the 48-hour week and the Working Time Directive could be ripped up.”
Sir Keir will call on the government to use Britain’s presidency of the G7 group of major industrialised nations in 2021 to “secure and rebuild our economy and make Britain lead in the world again”.
Referencing the work done by Labour prime ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair though the G7 and G20 on global poverty and the financial crisis, he will call on Mr Johnson to take a bold approach to rebuilding after the pandemic.
“Britain hosts the G7 this year,” he will say. “That’s a huge opportunity to shape the recovery, to bring countries together in order to rebuild our economy and to repair our climate.
“We need to seize this chance to lead again, just as Blair and Brown did over global poverty and the financial crisis.”