PARIS (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition leader Keir Starmer will meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Sept. 19 as he builds up his foreign policy experience ahead of a general election expected next year which opinion polls show he is likely to win.
The meeting in Paris is due to take place the day before King Charles travels to France for a state visit.
“Their meeting is part of the dialogue that the President of the Republic maintains with European political players,” the French presidency said.
A poll earlier this month showed Starmer’s Labour Party has a 14-point lead over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s governing Conservatives, who have been in power since 2010 and are dealing with a cost-of-living crisis, persistently high inflation and a stagnating economy.
If elected, Starmer is likely to seeker closer relations with the European Union than the four Conservative prime ministers since Britain voted to leave the bloc in 2016.
Starmer, who campaigned to stay in the EU and once pushed for a second Brexit referendum, said earlier this year he wants to lower trade barriers with the bloc. Since being Labour leader, he has ruled out a holding a second referendum, saying it would reopen “old wounds”.
Although meetings between British opposition leaders and foreign leaders are relatively rare, Starmer did meet with the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last year.
A spokesman for Starmer declined to comment.
Sunak’s press secretary said of Macron’s meeting with Starmer: “It’s not unusual for opposition leaders to meet world leaders.”
(Reporting by Michel Rose, Tassilo Hummel and Andrew MacAskill, Editing by Alex Richardson and Kylie MacLellan)