Confusion over Jeremy Corbyn's free movement stance
Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on immigration has been thrown into confusion again as he said Labour would not stop any EU citizens coming to the UK – just hours after it was briefed that he was “not wedded” to free movement.
The Labour leader will this afternoon set out plans for “reasonably managed migration” after Brexit, but in a round of interviews this morning he downplayed the idea that today’s speech marked a shift in his stance on immigration.
The Conservatives said Labour’s policy on immigration was “chaotic”.
Mr Corbyn suggested that he would be happy to see free movement – which he has previously staunchly defended – continue if it was necessary to keep the UK’s single market membership.
He said he did not support tying EU citizens’ right to come and settle in the UK to them having a job offer.
“We’re not saying that anyone couldn’t come here because there would be the right of travel and so on; the right to work here would have to be something that would be negotiated because that clearly cannot be put down yet until we know what the terms are of single market access,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.
In extracts of his speech released last night, Mr Corbyn said: “Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle.
“But nor can we afford to lose full access to the European markets on which so many British businesses and jobs depend. Changes to the way migration rules operate from the EU will be part of the negotiations.”
But this morning he made clear that he would prioritise single market membership over immigration controls.
“At the end of this there’s going to be a decision to be made about access to European markets or not. If the EU says access to the single market requires the continuation of free movement then there’s a choice to be made,” he told ITV's Good Morning Britain.
On how he would respond to a choice, Mr Corbyn said: “I would say we have to end undercutting and exploitation – that in turn would probably affect numbers – but I would say economically we have got to be able to trade with Europe.”
The Conservatives seized on the confusion to attack the Labour leader.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s chaotic relaunch hasn’t even made it past breakfast time,” said Tory MP Dominic Raab.
“First he said Labour wasn’t wedded to freedom of movement, now he says that there are circumstances in which he could keep it.
“Given that Corbyn has previously said that he’s not concerned about the number of people coming to this country, it is clear that Labour simply will not get control of immigration.
“The question is, do Labour believe that Brexit must mean taking control of immigration from Europe or not? Their answer is no.”