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Yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn has launched a defensive stance on immigration from the EU and elsewhere during his party conference speech. His words stirred a big reaction within the cabinet causing a clear split in opinion. Corbyn – the Labour leader – is believed to be using his speech to promise a Labour government will not ‘sow division’ by promising to cut immigration.
In light of his comments, it puts across the perception that Labour won’t respond to the Brexit vote by looking to curb immigration on the free movement of people across the EU. However, his comments have also caused senior shadow cabinet ministers to speak out about more controls to the current system that is currently in anarchy.
In an interview on BBC radio 4, Corbyn stated that he understood ‘the problems that can come in some areas”, which is why he would create a ‘migrant impact fund’ to ease pressure on public services. He went on to say that ‘migrants that have come to this country make an enormous contribution to it. Our conference understands that and Tom Watson put that case very well about the work that migrants have done in the NHS and education and other industries … we should live with that but also understand the number of British people.’
Corbyn forcefully defended his points by highlighting that numbers vary from year to year and that there were several sectors such as farming that were massively dependant on labour from migrants.
When he was questioned on whether the public should stop worrying about immigration, he replied, ‘We have to allay people’s concerns about the impact … and recognise the huge contribution made to our economy and the numbers of people working in the NHS that are pretty crucial to the survival of the NHS.’ He believes that Britain needs to carry on accepting free movement from the EU, whilst maintaining access to the single market on the same basis as other membered states.
In a clear contrast, however, some of his cabinet members Angela Rayner and Andy Burnham) held a very different view. In a conference intervention, Mr Burnham spoke out saying ‘Labour must face up fully to this fact: millions of our lifelong supporters voted to leave the EU and voted for change on immigration.’ Whilst Raynor, in a conversation with the BBC, said there need to be ‘controls’ on the current chaotic system. ‘We have to have controls on immigration, that’s quite clear… You have to know who is coming into your country and who is leaving your country. We have to got to make sure that our economic situation is good for everybody because immigration is a good thing for us, but what undermines [that] is when people feel that it is unvetted and that we are not able to deal with the issues and the concerns that people have around that.’
At numerous points throughout the referendum campaign, Corbyn aired his concerns over the UK looking to cut immigration. The Labour leader during his conference, ‘A Labour government will not offer false promises. We will not sow division or fan the flames of fear. We will instead tackle the real issues of immigration – and make the changes that are needed.’ Corbyn’s spokesman told journalists, ‘he is not concerned about numbers’ going no to mention that rather than seeking controls, Labour would look to mitigate its effects on the lower paid workers with the reintroduction of a ‘migrant impact fund.’