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Labour Front-Runner Starmer Warns Brexit Risks Breaking Up U.K.

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Keir Starmer, the front-runner to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, said Brexit risks breaking up the U.K. as he called for a “radical” redistribution of power to towns and regions.

In a series of broadcast interviews on Monday, Starmer, the party’s Brexit spokesman, said politicians have spent the past three years arguing about what sort of divorce agreement to strike with the European Union, without focusing on the underlying causes of Brexit. That risks creating a “vacuum” that’s filled by nationalism, he said.

“There’s a very deep feeling, and this did come out in the referendum, that the power, the wealth, the resource, the opportunities are all in London and they’re not in the regions: We’ve got got address that,” Starmer told Sky News. He then told the BBC: “We are at risk of watching the breakup of the United Kingdom.”

The U.K. is due to leave the EU on Friday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson stormed to an 80-seat majority last month, enabling him to push his withdrawal agreement through Parliament. With 2020 set to be dominated by negotiations on the shape of future economic ties with the bloc, the premier has also said he’s keen to move onto domestic priorities including the health service, public transport and policing.

But Starmer argued that people around the U.K. want to see more decisions being taken locally. He said in an emailed statement he plans to tour the U.K. during the leadership contest — scheduled to end on April 4 — arguing “for a radical redistribution of power, wealth and opportunity based on a new federal structure.”

Power Monopoly

“We need to end the monopoly of power in Westminster and spread it across every town, city, region and nation of the United Kingdom,” Starmer said.

Starmer’s message chimes with that of Lisa Nandy, another candidate for the leadership, whose campaign — focused on empowering towns — has turned her into a genuine contender in the contest.

Starmer, Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey — viewed as Corbyn’s preferred successor — have all crossed the threshold of support from unions, affiliated groups and local parties they need to make it onto the final ballot paper, while the party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Emily Thornberry, has until Feb. 14 to get there.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Robert Hutton, Thomas Penny

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