A former MEP has said that the UK could forge closer ties with the EU by joining a ‘multi-speed’ Europe envisaged by France and Germany.

Writing in The Herald, former Conservative Euro MP Struan Stevenson said that the UK could join an ‘outer tier’ of countries orbiting the U sharing free trade on key issues but not signing up to full membership.

Mr Stevenson writes that Britain could have “free trade agreements in areas such as energy and defence, and further cooperation on climate change and security issues” but would not have full participation in the single market or any integration with EU law.

He adds: “Countries joining the outer tier would have to commit to the “common principles and values” of the EU.”

The idea is said to be the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron, who believes it would sooth some of the stumbling blocks of Brexit.

It also chimes with Sir Keir Starmer’s pledge to "get a better deal” from the EU than the trade and co-operation agreement signed by Boris Johnson, which experts have said leaves little room for maneuver.

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Struan Stevenson writes: “At a time when the rise of right-wing populism is beginning to expose cracks and fractures in the EU, with member states like Hungary, Italy and even France displaying increasing signs of euro scepticism, a reformed Europe incorporating concentric circles of membership might be the solution.

“Replacing the unpopular EU "one-size-fits-all" approach with a system incorporating flexibility and pluralism, might pave the way for Britain to renew its friendship with our European neighbours. President Macron may have handed us the key.”