A series of leading allies of Jeremy Corbyn, including former shadow cabinet minister Clive Lewis and the leaders of several trade unions, have joined forces to call on the Labour leadership to fight for free movement.
Lewis, the ex-shadow defence secretary, and the general secretaries of the TSSA and Bakers’ Union, as well as MPs David Lammy and Geraint Davies are among the backers of a new campaign which aims to resist the “scapegoating” of migrants by a “political and economic elite”.
The group, entitled Labour Campaign for Free Movement, accuses the Tories of responding to the refugee crisis with “brutality and detention centres” and demands Labour translates into policy its recent “celebration” of the contribution of migrants.
“Migrants are not to blame for falling wages, insecurity, bad housing and overstretched public services,” the group wrote in a statement today.
“These are the product of decades of under-investment, deregulation, privatisation, and the harshest anti-union laws in Europe. On the contrary, migrant workers have been on the front line of fighting for better pay and working conditions. Labour is the party of all working people – regardless of where they were born.”
The intervention is the latest salvo in Labour’s internal debate over the shape of Brexit. Last month, the party leadership performed a significant U-turn when senior figures such as John McDonnell and Diane Abbott said they were keeping all options on the table.
EU leaders have repeatedly said the single market is tied to the issue of free movement but today’s launch of the free movement campaign makes no reference to the trading bloc, although many of the signatories have previously spoken out on the subject.
As well as Manuel Cortes, head of the TSSA, Ronnie Draper, leader of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, and Sally Hunt, of the University and College Union, the backers include Labour national executive members Ann Black and Darren Williams, and MEPs Julie Ward and Lucy Anderson.