Is Keir Starmer’s Labour making peace with voters on Brexit and immigration?

There are several snags in wooing red wall voters back to Labour on the matter of migrant workers, says Sean O’Grady

Tuesday 22 November 2022 18:48 GMT
Sir Keir Starmer at the CBI’s annual conference
Sir Keir Starmer at the CBI’s annual conference (Getty)

For a man who used to hold such contempt for Brexit and all it stood for, and has spent much of the past few years criticising it, Keir Starmer’s conversion to one of its central tenets has a certain Damascene quality. Rather than viewing membership of the EU single market and the attendant freedom of movement as a great source of economic growth, as he seemed to believe it was before, he is now attacking the very notion of it.

“It’s not about Brexit,” he says. Given that the issues of migration and freedom of movement were so intertwined with Brexit, and still are, that’s not entirely convincing. Still, Starmer’s message is clear – that some skilled migration is OK, but not the kinds of changes to the labour market seen in recent decades.

“The days when low pay and cheap labour are part of the British way of growth must end … our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency, to start investing more in training workers who are already here,” he said, addressing the CBI’s annual conference in Birmingham on Tuesday.

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