Closer co-operation on defence with the European Union will not damage Nato, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The Prime Minister made the remarks en route to a Nato summit in Washington DC, where he is travelling with his European Relations minister Nick Thomas-Symonds.

There has been concern that Starmer’s desire to have close defence and security links with Brussels will impact detrimentally the UK’s commitment to Nato.

Speaking to GB News and a group of reporters en route to the US, he said: “On the defence and security pact this is really important to us.

Sir Keir Starmer made the remarks en route to a Nato summit in Washington DCPA

“I do think there is scope for a significant improving of our defence and security relationship with the EU.

“I think this is complementary with Nato. Nato is still the cornerstone of defence in Europe and our approach on defence has always been Nato first.

“I do see scope for complementing that.

“That is why we are wanting to advance the defence and security pact or agreement with the EU.”

Asked why Thomas-Symonds had come on the trip, Starmer said that the timing of the election meant that “has” provided a really important window of opportunity for me and my team” because of the proximity of the Nato summit.

Starmer also said he would be using the time at the summit to prepare for a major summit of European leaders that the UK his hosting at Blenheim Palace next week.

He said: “The central purpose is obviously all about Nato but it is a very important opportunity to strengthen those relations.

“We built them in opposition with Nato allies, so I’ve spoken to a lot of Nato allies when I was Leader of the Opposition.”