Jeremy Corbyn hints that free movement of people could continue after Brexit amid Labour split

Posted On: 
17th November 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has dropped a clear hint that free movement of people could continue post-Brexit under a Labour government.

The Labour leader said a "great deal" of free movement would continue after Brexit.
Credit: 
PA

Ahead of Labour's manifesto launch on Thursday, the party leader said there would be "a great deal of movement" after Britain quits the EU under its immigration plans.

Delegates at the party's annual conference backed a motion vowing to "maintain and extend" freedom of movement of people - a key pillar of EU membership - earlier this year.

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That marked a major shift from the party's 2017 manifesto pledge to end freedom of movement after Britain quits the bloc.

But senior figures in the party have been divided over how to respond to the conference vote, with Unite union boss Len McCluskey the most vocal critic of the stance.

"It’s wrong in my view to have any greater free movement of labour unless you get stricter labour market regulation," he said this week.

Pressed on whether freedom of movement would now end after Britain leaves the EU, Mr Corbyn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "There will be a great deal of movement."

The Labour leader added: "My instinct is to recognise that economies are interdependent around the world, that we all benefit from people moving to, living in and working in different societies and we benefit massively from the vast number of overseas students that come here.

"I don't want to turn my back on that, I don't want us to become an isolated society. I'm proud of the diversity of our society and our country and I want that to be the basis of how we live."

But he refused to shed more light on what Labour chiefs had agreed at a crunch manifesto meeting on Saturday.

"You'll have to wait until Thursday," Mr Corbyn said.

"I know you're very impatient... You'll know on Thursday."

The comments were quickly seized on by the Conservatives, who set out their own immigration election commitments on Sunday ahead of the party's manifesto launch.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "Once again, Jeremy Corbyn has shown that he isn’t on the side of the British people and doesn’t have a clear plan for Britain.

"He refused to be straight with people on Brexit. He refused to be straight with people on immigration. And he started negotiating coalition terms with Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP live on air.

"Jeremy Corbyn can’t offer the decisive leadership this country needs – he offers only dither and delay and the chaos of two more referendums next year."

'ONLY FAIR'

Under the Conservatives' proposals, a £400 NHS surcharge paid by non-EU nationals who move to the UK will be upped to £625, with the levy also extended to EU migrants for the first time.

Newcomers to Britain will also be expected to wait for five years before being given access to state benefits.

Unveiling the pledges, Boris Johnson said: "If people return a majority Conservative government we will ensure that people who come to our great country from anywhere in the world will contribute on day one to our NHS.

"The British people pay huge amounts to get great NHS care, it is only fair that everyone in the UK does."

But Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said it was "completely wrong" to argue that EU citizens were already accessing the NHS without "paying in".

The Labour frontbencher said: "EU workers pay taxes.

"The NHS is not a contributory system.

"This is how it begins - the Tory project to undermine the NHS, by bashing and blaming migrants first."