SIR Keir Starmer has emphatically ruled out a return to the EU under a Labour government. 

In a speech to the CBI annual conference in Birmingham, the party leader said “We are not going back to the EU. That means not going back into the single market or customs union.”

He told them that the UK could "have a better Brexit," under Labour. 

Sir Keir also told business leaders that the UK must end its “dependency” on immigration for cheap labour.

However, his speech came a day after CBI director-general Tony Danker said the UK needed more foreign workers. Immigration was “the only thing that has increased our growth potential since March," he said.

In his “unashamedly pro-business” speech, Sir Keir said the party had been turned “inside out” since the days of Jeremy Corbyn. 

Polls predict a landslide for Labour at the next election. The most recent survey for Ipsos-Mori had them 21 points ahead of the Tories.

Asked by someone in the audience if the rest of his party is behind him on his plans, Sir Keir said: “The Labour Party has changed, we’ve turned the Labour Party inside out and that’s particularly significant when it comes to the way we’re working with business.

“I say to you loud and clear, this Labour Party has changed, there is no going back and it is united behind what we’re trying to achieve.”

On Brexit, Sir Keir told the CBI: “We are not going back to the EU. That means not going back into the single market or customs union.

“But we have to make Brexit work, the deal the Government has got us is not working well. It’s holding business back, it’s holding growth back.”

He said getting a “pragmatic answer” to make the Northern Ireland Protocol work and reducing trade barriers are areas that could yield improvements.

“I do think we can have a better Brexit. I think we have to make Brexit work,” he said.

“I think what’s happened so far has been a Government that simply said the words ‘get Brexit done’ and put in place a deal which I think most people in this room would say is not working well for business, is not working well for exports, is not working well for growth.”

The comments come after reports over the weekend that the government was considering the possibility of a Swiss-style deal with the EU. 

While Switzerland has access to the European single market, the series of bilateral agreements signed with Brussels means more migration, payments to the EU budget, and adherence to some rules.  

Mr Sunak used his speech at the CBI on Monday to distance the government from the plan first touted in the Sunday Times. 

On migration, Sir Keir said his party would take a “pragmatic” approach. 

“Of course we understand that we need to act now so that we help business and drive growth.

“But we have to address and run towards the challenge that is skills, run towards the challenge that is ensuring we have everybody back in the workforce, because there are hundreds of thousands of people who aren’t working now who were working just a few years ago.

“This is, for me, an economic argument, not a push for political tactics.”

He that any changes to a points-based migration system "will come with new conditions for business".

"We will expect you to bring forward a clear plan for higher skills and more training, for better pay and conditions, for investment in new technology," he said.

"But our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency. To start investing more in training up workers who are already here."

Sir Keir said an incoming Labour government would “inherit an economy that’s been damaged by the last 12 weeks and the last 12 years” and that could mean the party putting off key policy plans. 

“Stability has to be our first priority. If that means there are things – good Labour things – which we can’t do as quickly as we would like, then that is a consequence of that security.”

He said “we are going to have to be responsible” for clearing up the economic mess.

He told the CBI conference in Birmingham that “trickle-down” economics had been “tested to destruction”.

However, he said if the South East was allowed to race ahead “redistribution can’t be the one-word plan for the rest of Britain”.

“Working people want growth from the grassroots jobs that are well-paid and secure, communities standing on their own feet, public services strong enough to help them succeed.

“So, I promise you now, my Labour government will care – must care – as much about raising productivity everywhere as we’ve done in the past, about redistribution.

“We’re going to throw everything at growing our collective contribution, our productive capacity in every community.”

Responding to the speech, the SNP's Depute Westminster Leader, Kirsten Oswald said: "It was depressing to watch the Labour leader try to out-Tory the Tories - again - on Brexit and migration, and essentially tell CBI that they are wrong. 

“With both the Tories and Labour backing a hard Brexit and clamping down on migration - which we know Scotland and its businesses need - independence is the only way we can protect our economy.

"The Tories' extreme Brexit, backed by Labour, has been an unmitigated disaster. It has hammered Scotland’s economy, hit our businesses and trade, and is one of the main reasons for the significant labour shortages we are seeing across the country right now."