Why we’re still defending free movement

A debate is breaking out over free movement and Brexit. Here Another Europe supporters outline where we stand.

10th January 2017

european signs to different capitals

Jeremy Corbyn’s position over whether Labour would continue to support free movement has been subject to considerable attention today. His team initially briefed the media that his Peterborough speech would see him argue the Labour Party was “not wedded” to supporting the continuation of free movement after Brexit. But when giving this speech he later added that the party did not “rule out” supporting this either. Stephen Bush has discussed these twists and turns here.

Another Europe is continuing to campaign for free movement. We believe it is a vital and precious right of working people across Europe that we should not give up. We are proud to be working with allies in the labour movement to establish the Alliance for Free Movement, a broad based campaign set up to insist that it is in the interests of workers of all nations to protect and overtime extend this right. Today we have set out our views on this, alongside others in our new alliance, in the Guardian.

Here we publish some responses to Corbyn’s speech from Another Europe supporters.

Another Europe convenor and lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University Luke Cooper said:

“It is tragically sad to see the real mess Corbyn has gotten himself into trying to defend such an incoherent position today. There is no principled or electoral case for Labour abandoning support for a free movement agreement with the EU post-Brexit. It isn’t in the interests of Labour voters, or those that Labour need to win over to return to power.

“We hope to persuade the Labour Party leadership, MPs and trade unionists across the labour movement to join the campaign we are launching with others, the Alliance for Free Movement. The right to move to other EU countries to work and study, and not be discriminated against when you get there, is entirely progressive. It is coming under hammer blows with the rising tide of nationalism and xenophobia.

“Clarity and hope wins elections – not fudged positions that satisfy no one. History will not look kindly on those that caved at this vital moment.”

Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now and Another Europe supporter said:

“We have a situation in the UK where xenophobia is on the rise, and there is vicious, widespread scapegoating of migrants from newspapers and politicians for all of society’s ills. In that context, progressive politicians have a responsibility to challenge the false narrative that migration is a fundamental problem rather than reinforce it. There’s no evidence to show that migration has a significant effect on lowering average wages, but there is a whole wealth of evidence to show that the general public has consistently exposed to a series of sensationalist lies about the extent of migration and the impacts it has on UK society.

“In the context of Brexit we should be fighting for freedom of movement within the EU. We should be fighting for the sake of our NHS and other important public services that depend on hard working EU nationals staffing it, and we should be fighting for the rights and well being of the three million EU nationals living in the UK whose lives shouldn’t be treated as bargaining chips in Theresa May’s negotiations.

“And we also need to be looking to challenge the inhumane policing that’s taking place at the EU’s borders. This week refugees on the island of Lesbos have been facing icy temperatures and inches of snow while they are trapped in limbo as a result of the EU-Turkey refugee agreement. We can’t allow the political turmoil that the UK is facing to distract us from the ongoing refugee crisis. UK has taken in only a tiny handful of refugees compared to other EU countries. Our basic human decency and compassion is being sacrificed to appease a politically constructed narrative based on lies and disinformation.”

Another Europe supporter and Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas MP said:

“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.

“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.”