Jeremy Corbyn has rejected calls for immigration curbs by a growing number of Labour MPs, warning Britons would pay the price in tit-for-tat retaliation.
The Labour leader said “harmonisation of wages and working conditions” across Europe – not restricting freedom of movement – was key to winning back public confidence on the explosive issue.
In recent days, a number of Labour MPs have urged their party to accept that the public clamour for tighter immigration rules, laid bare in the Brexit vote, must be heeded.
But, in a round of TV interviews, Mr Corbyn called for a recognition that European migrant workers make a “huge contribution to our health service, our education service and many others”.
And he said: “Tighter rules will also mean it is much more difficult to travel to Europe, much more difficult to take a holiday in Europe, much more difficult to study in Europe.
“What I would do about immigration is try to bring about a degree of co-terminosity, a degree of equality of work conditions and wages across Europe.”
In the interviews, the Labour leader also criticised the bombing of so-called Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, saying: “I’m not sure it is working. I think there has to be a political solution.
“I would look at the effects of that bombing. I’m concerned about the collateral damage that’s been done, I’m concerned of the effects of it on civilians in Syria.”
Mr Corbyn defied his party by announcing he would be “appointing” new Shadow Cabinet members next week, without conceding the elections demanded by most of his MPs.
He stepped back from his previous statement that he would never, as Prime Minister, press the nuclear button, saying instead: “I never want to use a nuclear weapon.”
And he shrugged off Labour’s disastrous poll ratings, insisting he was winning the arguments, saying: “I tell you what, the political agenda has changed. Everyone’s against austerity now - they weren’t a year ago.”
Mr Corbyn added: “Stop treating the word `socialism’ as if it’s some sort of bad word we should only talk about late at night.”
On yesterday’s clash with Clive Lewis over Trident renewal – and the last-gasp editing of the Shadow Defence Secretary’s speech to stop it ruling out a future unilateralist shift – Mr Corbyn insisted: “We agreed on some changes.
“I had a good chat with Clive afterwards, we had a man-hug and a cup of tea and he invited me to Norwich [his constituency] and I’m going.
On Shadow Cabinet elections – an issue which Mr Corbyn has been accused of kicking into the long grass – he said: “I’m open to the idea and I understand the argument behind it, but I also think the leader of the party must have the ability to form the general policy areas.
He added: “The MPs will come back. We are all getting on fine. I will reach out by talking to them all.”
Mr Corbyn also rejected claims that London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s speech – which mentioned “power” 38 times - was directed at him, saying: “How is that a lecture to me? It was a lecture to everybody that we have to come together to get in power.”