Corbyn to insist his party is in favour of 'reasonably managed migration'

In a speech later today, the British Labour Leader will attempt to end confusion over the party's immigration policy

Corbyn to insist his party is in favour of 'reasonably managed migration'

Image: Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire/Press Association Images. Image: Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Jeremy Corbyn is to attempt to end confusion over Labour policy on immigration after his deputy Tom Watson struggled to explain it in a recent interview.

In a speech later today on Brexit billed as part of his New Year relaunch, the Labour leader will say his party is not wedded to free movement for EU citizens as a point of principle.

The move marks a shift by Mr Corbyn, who up to now has strongly defended free movement and put himself at odds with Labour MPs who are demanding curbs on immigration.

His stance has been contradicted by the Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer and at the weekend two Labour MPs, Stephen Kinnock and Emma Reynolds, demanded a two-tier system.

Speaking in Peterborough, when he will also pledge to campaign to stay in the single market, Mr Corbyn will say: "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.

"Labour supports fair rules and reasonably managed migration as part of the post-Brexit relationship with the EU.

"Unlike the Tories, Labour will not offer false promises on immigration targets or sow division by scapegoating migrants.

"But Labour will take action against undercutting of pay and conditions by closing down cheap labour loopholes, banning exclusive advertising of jobs abroad and strengthening workplace protections.

"That would have the effect of reducing numbers of EU migrant workers in the most deregulated sectors, regardless of the final Brexit deal."

The speech comes 48 hours after Mr Watson, in an interview with Sophy Ridge on Sky News last weekend, refused five times to confirm that the party had given up defending free movement

"It's unfair of you to ask what Labour's notional position is when we don't even know what Theresa May's negotiating position is on free movement," said Mr Watson.

The secret Brexiteer?

Mr Corbyn, declaring that "Britain can be better off after Brexit", will also fuel the suspicion of many Labour MPs that he was a not-so-secret Brexiteer in the EU referendum campaign last year.

"People voted for Brexit to regain control over our economy, our democracy and people's lives," he will say. "We will push to maintain full access to the European single market to protect living standards and jobs.

"But we will also press to repatriate powers from Brussels for the British government to develop a genuine industrial strategy essential for the economy of the future.

"Tory Governments have hidden behind EU state aid rules because they don't want to intervene. But EU rules can also be a block on the action that's needed to support our economy, decent jobs and living standards.

"Labour will use state aid powers in a drive to build a new economy, based on new technology and the green industries of the future."

"Too divided and incompetent"

Responding to Mr Corbyn's speech, Tory Brexit minister David Jones, said: "Labour is too divided and incompetent to make any sort of success of the UK's exit from the European Union.

"It's clear that they would increase taxes on working families and the businesses that create jobs, and hand more powers to militant trade union leaders.

"And nor will they get control of immigration. Just this weekend their deputy leader admitted they don't have a policy, and Jeremy Corbyn has previously said that he's not concerned at all about numbers.

"They are totally out of touch with the concerns of ordinary working people."

Mr Corbyn's Peterborough speech comes amid reports that Mr Corbyn plans to adopt Donald Trump-style media tactics as part of a bid to cast himself as the leader of a populist, anti-establishment movement.

It is claimed the new strategy is part of a "let Corbyn be Corbyn" approach, in which he will play to his two main strengths: that he says what he thinks and is perceived as a man of integrity.