Jeremy Corbyn likened to Nigel Farage by senior members of his own party after vow to curb foreign workers

Labour leader claimed Brexit would deliver the benefit of preventing firms 'importing cheap labour' to undercut UK wages

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 10 March 2018 17:39 GMT
Jeremy Corbyn gives speech to Scottish Labour

Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of echoing Nigel Farage after vowing to curb foreign workers, in extraordinary criticism from senior Scottish Labour colleagues.

Kezia Dugdale, the former Scottish Labour leader, said the party had “allowed the myths of EU immigration rules to be perpetuated” after Mr Corbyn called for post-Brexit curbs on low-paid immigration.

And Ian Murray, an ex-Shadow Scottish Secretary, warned “the only person smiling after that passage in Jeremy’s speech would have been Nigel Farage”.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon also accused Labour of sounding like Ukip after Mr Corbyn described foreign nationals as “cheap” workers. “Labour spelling Keir Hardie’s name wrong was amusing. Hearing them echo Nigel Farage is profoundly depressing,” she tweeted.

The fierce criticism came after Mr Corbyn’s speech to the Scottish Labour conference on Friday was viewed as a significant shift to a Eurosceptic stance.

The Labour leader claimed Brexit would deliver the benefit of preventing firms “importing cheap labour” to undercut the wages of UK workers.

And he tried to outflank the Prime Minister, accusing her of planning to “tie the UK permanently to EU rules, which are used to drive privatisation and block support for British industry”.

“We cannot be held back, inside or outside the EU, from taking the steps we need to develop and invest in cutting edge industries and local business, stop the tide of privatisation and outsourcing, or from preventing employers being able to import cheap agency labour to undercut existing pay and conditions in the name of free market orthodoxy,” Mr Corbyn told the conference in Dundee.

Speaking at a later fringe event, Mr Murray said: “I’m disappointed that the Labour Party is not making this argument – immigration is good for the United Kingdom and Scotland and we have to be brave enough to stand up and make that point.

“And I was incredibly disappointed to see yesterday that the only person smiling after that passage in Jeremy’s speech would have been Nigel Farage.”

Ms Dugdale said: “Our party, a party of internationalism and equality, one that believes in freedom, hope and opportunity, should be one that’s at peace with making the positive case for immigration.

“A party that doesn’t just accept – but proactively argues – that our country is culturally deeper and economically richer because of immigration, not despite it.

“A party that states clearly and unequivocally that your troubles finding a job, getting a house, or seeing your doctor are caused by the Tories austerity ideology, not your Polish next-door neighbour.

“Every day we fail to do that, is a day in which Nigel Farage and his kin get up smiling.”

And Catherine Stihler, co-chair of the Scottish Labour for the Single Market group, said: “While some voters are angry about immigration, it is the job of the Labour Party to challenge anti-immigrant sentiment and promote the benefits to our economy and public services.”

Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Corbyn insisted last year’s general election – when the party defied the odds to gain six seats in Scotland – showed it was “alive and kicking” north of the border.

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