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Keir Starmer and Andy Burnham in Manchester

Manchester's universities are 'jewels in the crown' says Labour’s Keir Starmer

Labour's Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, praises Manchester Metropolitan University and other universities in the region in an interview with MMU journalism students

Labour’s Brexit minister Keir Starmer has praised higher education establishments like Manchester Metropolitan University in an interview with MMU journalism students.

He was speaking at an event for business leaders in Manchester last week and said: “One of the great challenges [of a Brexit deal] is to make sure that we offer a future that people want to come here and study.”

Sir Keir, a barrister and Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, said: “Places like Manchester Met are jewels in the crown. We have such brilliant universities, such brilliant colleges and lots and lots of international students want to come here and that is great. We have got to keep it happening.”

He was speaking alongside Manchester mayoral candidate Andy Burnham.

I asked him how the Labour party would support universities such as MMU to continue to attract international students post Brexit. 

“Personally, I would take international students out of the net migration figures and treat them as what they are, which is students coming here and make them very welcome,” he said.

He was also asked how he would ensure a strong and collaborative future with the EU, when Labour is constantly portrayed as disunited.

“Well the tests that we have set out are unifying tests, everyone in the Labour party supports them. What we now need to do is build on them," he said.

 “I think the Labour party is in a position to go out there across Europe, speak to our partners in the other EU countries and make sure that we have a proper sense of what all of the EU countries want out of this.”

He told business leaders in his address that while the UK population has been almost split by the decision to leave, the result must be accepted to achieve a fair Brexit deal.

The majority of Greater Manchester’s boroughs voted to leave the EU. This was despite the city centre having the strongest Remain vote in the North West.

Even though Starmer himself campaigned to remain in the EU, he said the result must now be accepted: “I accept the result and that means I see my job as helping to hold the government to account.”

To ensure that British people had a voice within the upcoming negotiations, Starmer visited business groups all over the UK. One of the concerns mentioned at the meeting was to avoid a “London-centric” Brexit deal.

During the visits, companies were given a blank piece of paper and asked to write down, from their own perspective, what needed to happen to ensure the sustainability of their own company.

One of the issues that came up was a call for the alignment of regulations across the board.

He said: “This is what the Prime Minister needs to fight for”.

His parting message for the meeting was: “Do we look back in grief or shape the future? Shape the future; that is our duty”.

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