Brexit: Diane Abbott softens Labour free movement stance in talks with Tories

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott
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Labour will put economic prosperity ahead of ending free movement of people from the EU in any compromise Brexit deal, shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has insisted ahead of further talks with the government this afternoon.

Ministers and their opposition counterparts will meet on Friday following the announcement of a new Brexit delay until 31 October, giving Theresa May more time to reach a deal with Labour that can command a majority in the Commons.

Jeremy Corbyn’s party has so far stood by a manifesto commitment that “freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union”, and the Prime Minister cited an end to free movement as one basis for a possible compromise deal.

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Labour’s stance has been seized on by the SNP, which has made the continuation of free movement one of its ‘red lines’ on Brexit, arguing the immigration is essential to keep Scotland’s population and economy growing.

However, ahead of the resumption of talks Ms Abbott sought to distance Labour from the government’s position on free movement, saying any decision on post-Brexit immigration policy would be made on the grounds of “jobs and prosperity”.

"Labour's immigration policy honours our existing commitments to the three million EU citizens in the UK, including more than 200,000 currently living in Scotland, and is designed to fill skills and labour shortages in our NHS, social care and other sectors,” Ms Abbott said in comments to the Scotsman.

“All the workers we need will be welcome here, and they and their families will be treated fairly.

"Throughout the entire Brexit debacle, the Tories have prioritised campaigning against migrants generally and freedom of movement in particular.

“Labour rejects arbitrary and unworkable numerical immigration targets. In the UK Parliament, Labour has voted against the Tory immigration bill that would end freedom of movement.

“It is foolish and reckless to change our immigration system in this way without first knowing what our future relationship with the EU will be.”

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The shadow Home Secretary continued: "Labour has repeatedly argued for close alignment with the Single Market, and our future immigration system must fit into any outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

“The government wants to put its claim to be curbing immigration ahead of our shared prosperity.

“Labour will always put jobs and prosperity first, and we will end the Tories' degrading and inhumane hostile environment that has led to people being wrongly deported and unfairly targeted."