Green Party accuses Jeremy Corbyn of ‘capitulating to the Tories’ on immigration

Co-leader Caroline Lucas says her party still defends free movement 

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 10 January 2017 09:47 GMT
Caroline Lucas
Caroline Lucas (PA)

The Green Party has accused Labour of “capitulating” to the Tories on immigration after Jeremy Corbyn said he would accept the end of European freedom of movement.

The Labour leader will say in a speech in Peterborough this morning that his party would push for “fair and reasonably managed migration” and that it was not “wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle”.

He will say Britain cannot afford to lose “full access to the European markets on which so many British businesses and jobs depend” but that changes to migration rules will be on the table.

Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion and co-leader of the Green Party, accused Mr Corbyn of “handing the post-referendum process to the Conservatives on a plate”.

“In the space of a few short weeks Jeremy Corbyn has gone from backing free movement in Europe to joining the Conservatives plans for Brexit by abandoning his commitment to it,” she said ahead of the speech.

“This capitulation to the Tories is astounding, especially considering that it means sacrificing membership of the single market and putting jobs and livelihoods at risk.

“The Labour Party is handing the post-referendum process to the Conservatives on a plate. First they risk throwing Britain off the brexit cliff edge by voting with them to trigger Article 50 prematurely and now they seem set to sacrifice our access to the single market by joining the Tory blame game on free movement.

“At a time when we need a real opposition more than ever we're seeing Labour dancing to the Tories' Brexit tune.”

Jeremy Corbyn is reversing his stance on immigration
Jeremy Corbyn is reversing his stance on immigration (Getty)

She said the Green Party believed the UK should remain in the single market and that letting EU nationals come to live and work in the UK was “part of the deal”.

The co-leader added: “The Green Party will continue to defend free movement, and stand up for the rights of people from across Europe who have come here to live, work and study."

With the Conservatives, Ukip and Labour happy with the ending of free movement, the Greens and some Liberal Democrats remain the only parties signed up to the open borders policy.

Mr Corbyn, previously a supporter of free movement, has come under sustained pressure from MPs inside his party to reverse his stance in recent months.

Deputy leader Tom Watson said on Sunday that Labour would lose the next election if the party backed the "status quo" on migration, while MPs including Stephen Kinnock called for a "two-tier" system to admit skilled workers.

The move by the leadership may upset some activists close to Mr Corbyn, however.

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