Labour’s Diane Abbott hints at free movement policy shift

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, in a significant change in tone on post-Brexit immigration policy.

Labour Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott  (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Labour Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

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 yesterday, Ms Abbott sought to distance Labour from the government’s position on free movement, saying any decision would be made on the grounds of “jobs and prosperity”.

“All the workers we need will be welcome here, and they and their families will be treated fairly,” Ms Abbott said in comments to The Scotsman.

“The Tories have prioritised campaigning against migrants generally and freedom of movement in particular... 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.”

She 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.”