Free Movement campaign puts pressure on Corbyn to take stance
Supporters of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have made a public plea for him to make a commitment regarding freedom of movement of workers between the UK and the EU.
In recent weeks, top tier Labour members including Clive Lewis and David Lammy have thrown support to a new group, the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, as the party's official position on the topic remains unclear.
According to the group, Labour, much like Britain itself, is "at a crossroads" and the most important thing it can do now is to show "clarity, humanity, and solidarity" in order to solidify its relationship with the outside world.
Perhaps most importantly, this latest rift in the party is coming primarily from the left side of Labour, where Corbyn's strongest allies have been in the past, as opposed to other recent public spats regarding the party's position on the single market, which have as a majority come from more centred MPs, despite the fact that free movement is essentially a requirement for single market access.
Theresa May has said the Conservatives will put a stop to free movement, even if she has given little information on how she plans to do so, while Labour's manifesto also states the party also believes freedom of movement was all but guaranteed to come to an end sometime after March 2019.
Yet countries such as Norway still enjoy free movement for their nationals within the EU, despite not actually being part of it.
"A system of free movement is the best way to protect and advance the interests of all workers, by giving everyone the right to work legally, join a union and stand up to their boss without fear of deportation or destitution," said the statement released by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.
"Migrants are not to blame for falling wages, insecurity, bad housing and overstretched public services. These are the product of decades of underinvestment, deregulation, privatisation, and the harshest anti-union laws in Europe. On the contrary, migrant workers have been on the front line of fighting for better pay and working conditions.
"Labour is the party of all working people – regardless of where they were born."
Corbyn said in July he would not support the "wholesale importation" of workers from the European Union to allow employers to lower wages and potentially price out the domestic workforce, which goes against comments he made in April of 2016.
"I don't think too many have come, I think the issue is wages and regulations," Corbyn said at the time.
As it remains unclear what Labour's official post-Brexit policy on free movement would be, it is somewhat irrelevant, because unless an early general election were to be called again, it is unlikely the party would have any real involvement in how the new system was crafted.
Michael Chessum, one of the organisers of the campaign, said Labour needed to back itself up "with policy, not just sentiment. We beat the Tories when we’re principled and offer alternatives – that’s the lesson of the general election.”