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Rachel Reeves promises closer EU trade ties and investment surge

RACHEL REEVES has announced her intention to seek closer trade ties with the EU and attract more foreign investment as she begins an economy-focused week, while Rishi Sunak returns to the campaign trail after a brief hiatus.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor has hinted at revising parts of Boris Johnson’s 2020 Brexit deal, including aligning more closely with EU regulations in the chemicals and veterinary sectors, improving touring rights for UK artists, and enhancing mutual recognition of qualifications for financial services workers. She emphasised this is not an “exclusive” list, telling the Financial Times: “We would look to improve our trading relationship with Europe. I don’t think anyone voted Leave because they were not happy that chemicals regulations were the same across Europe.”

Reeves’ comments suggest that Labour might push further for better trade terms with the EU than previously indicated, despite their earlier reluctance to discuss Brexit during the General Election campaign.

The Labour frontbencher also committed to “hit the ground running to show that Britain is open for business” by organising a global investment summit within the first 100 days of taking office. On Monday morning, she will meet with members of her British infrastructure council to discuss attracting foreign investors deterred by UK political instability.

Reeves and Sir Keir Starmer are also expected to promote their plan to establish a national wealth fund during a campaign visit. Labour has promised to invest £7.3 billion in this fund over the next parliament, aiming to create 650,000 new jobs. “The next Labour government will work hand-in-hand with the private sector to bring investment to Britain’s industrial heartlands and I have been clear that our national wealth fund will be a crucial tool in the armoury to deliver on this ambition,” Reeves said.

As Labour and the Conservatives continue to clash over tax and spending, Sunak criticised Labour’s promises as a “con”. This followed a statement by Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting on Sunday, who said Labour’s manifesto is not the “sum total” of what it will do in government. The Prime Minister told the Express: “At this election Keir Starmer is asking for you and your family to sign a blank cheque, and we all know what he wants to do with it: put up your taxes so he can run riot with your money.”

Labour’s energy policy was also criticised, with Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho warning it would be a “triple whammy” for the UK. She claimed that Labour’s ban on new oil and gas licences could lead to an estimated £4.5 billion in lost tax revenues over the next decade and risk tens of thousands of jobs. Labour dismissed this as “more desperate nonsense” from their rivals.

The embattled Prime Minister is visiting East Yorkshire, the East Midlands, and East of England on Monday after pausing his campaign for his prime ministerial duties. Sunak attended the G7 summit in Italy on Thursday and Friday, followed by Trooping the Colour on Saturday and a major international summit on Ukraine in Switzerland.

Opinion polls continue to show his party facing defeat, with one survey during his absence showing Reform UK edging ahead of the Conservatives for the first time. Although within the margin of error, and with subsequent surveys showing Nigel Farage’s party trailing the Conservatives, it was a significant blow to the Tories, leading to warnings from other pollsters of potential “electoral extinction” for the party.

Penny Mordaunt maintained that the election result is “not a foregone conclusion”, but admitted her party is now the “underdog”. The Commons Leader, viewed as a possible successor to Sunak as Tory leader despite being projected to lose her Portsmouth North seat, told the Independent “we need to go further on those tax cuts”.

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Nigel Farage is set to unveil Reform UK’s manifesto, which the party describes as a “contract” with voters, in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, on Monday. Farage stated he is “launching a crusade to defend British values” and chose the location “because it shows everyone exactly what happens to a country when Labour is in charge”.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have proposed expanding fuel duty relief for rural motorists to 20 new areas, including Devon, Cumbria, and Shropshire, funded by an additional £7 million a year. Leader Sir Ed Davey, who will promote the plan during a campaign visit, said it would be “a real rescue plan to support rural communities struggling with outrageous pump prices”.

In Scotland, First Minister John Swinney is expected to announce that the SNP is the only major party with a “truly left-of-centre manifesto” ahead of its policy document launch this week. The Scottish Liberal Democrats are promising to “lift up Scottish education” as they present their proposals on Monday, while Scottish Labour’s election battle bus begins its campaign tour.