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Union leader challenges Jeremy Corbyn over 'fallacious' migrant claims

3 min read

Claims that immigrants undermine British workers are “fallacious”, “bordering on racist”, and should be rooted out by the Labour party, a trade union boss has said. 

Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the TSSA union, suggested the current strategy of the party leadership was a product of “short-term electoral populism”.

Jeremy Corbyn has said free movement will end after Brexit, and recently claimed the “wholesale importation” of workers from the European Union had “destroyed conditions” for UK workers.

In a piece for the LabourList website, Mr Cortes co-opted Mr Corbyn’s own term and hinted the Labour leader was propagating the same narrative as Ukip.

“The false perception persists, promoted to a large extent by our right-wing media and Ukip’s two decade-long xenophobic mantra, that the wholesale importation of EU workers is undermining those already working within our shores,” he wrote.

“Sadly, this disingenuous narrative has taken root within our movement. It helped deliver the Brexit vote. But as we debate the Brexit we want, it’s high time we weeded out this fallacious and, frankly, xenophobic and at times bordering on racist, argument.”

When asked by the Andrew Marr Show in July what Labour’s immigration policy would be, Mr Corbyn said: “There would be European workers working in Britain and British workers working in Europe as there are the moment.

“What there wouldn’t be is the wholesale importation of underpaid workers from central Europe in order to destroy conditions, particularly in the construction industry.”

It marks the latest effort from the TSSA to put pressure on Mr Corbyn to change tack on post-Brexit migration policy.

Mr Cortes recently spoke out against Mr Corbyn’s determination to leave the European single market, and the union also signed up to the new Labour Campaign for Free Movement.


In today’s article, he said there was “scant evidence” for the notion that immigrants undercut UK workers.

Such claims would be “music to the ears of the unscrupulous bosses” who benefit from the existing economic model, he added.

“Labour’s 2017 manifesto, written by Jeremy Corbyn, brought hope – and my wholehearted support – for an economic policy platform that would work in the interests of the many not the few,” Mr Cortes wrote.

“Migrants must be respected and included as part of Labour’s ‘many’. The dog-eat-dog mentality promoted by our right-wing media – who have long run to the Tory-Ukip dog-whistle – wants to portray them as the undeserving few...

“Allowing Brexit be pitched as EU workers versus British ones is a recipe for disaster. The only winners in this divide-and-rule strategy will be the bosses. As the old slogan goes, unity is our strength. We must fight against the economic conditions that allow these divisive tactics to chime with a proportion of Labour’s electorate...

“Our task is to ensure the election of a Labour government with policies that will end the binge the richest one per cent are having at our expense. Nothing short of this will end the blight that many of our communities are enduring, or the fact that millions have been left behind.

“To argue anything else is short-term electoral populism that will continue to foster fear and hate. Our movement is far better than this!”

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