Labour conference approves motion to extend free movement

Sienna Rodgers

On its final day, Labour conference has approved a radical policy motion advocating the extension of free movement, the closure of all detention centres and the awarding of equal voting rights to all UK residents.

The party position on freedom of movement has been a source of tension within the party since the result of the 2016 EU referendum, after which Labour appeared to decide that this one of the EU’s four economic freedoms would not continue after Brexit.

Labour’s 2017 manifesto stated: “Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union.” In April, Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesperson confirmed that Labour policy was that freedom of movement would end with Brexit.

But Labour conference delegates this morning voted against that policy, and in favour of both maintaining and extending freedom of movement as part of a range of immigration policy pledges proposed by Camberwell and Peckham CLP.

The immigration motion approved supports the dismantling of the ‘hostile environment’ through a number of measures, from specific legislative moves to broader party campaign objectives.

In the UK, full voting rights are currently limited to citizens of the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth countries. EU citizens living in the UK can vote in local and European elections, but not general elections.

The motion seeks to instruct the next Labour government to change the situation, such that non-EU and non-Commonwealth citizens are awarded the right to vote in all elections. Nondiscriminatory national voting rights are rare, with New Zealand being a notable exception.

Ana Oppenheim, from the Labour Campaign for Free Movement and an organiser for Another Europe is Possible, commented: “In 2017, it was a source of shame for many activists that our manifesto included ending free movement. Now we can move forward not only committed to defending free movement, but to giving migrants to vote. If we win, the next election will be the last election in which people like me are shut out of the democratic process.”

The Labour Party is not strictly bound by policy passed at its annual conference. The vote on the immigration motion was overwhelming, with only part of the CWU delegation opposed it. However, it is the ‘Clause V’ meeting – held once an election is called – that decides which parts of the party programme are included in the party manifesto.

Below is the full text of the immigration motion passed at Labour conference 2019.

Free movement, equality and rights for migrants, are socialist values and benefit us all.

Confronted with attacks on migrants – from the racist Hostile Environment to the Conservatives’ Immigration Bill that plans to end free movement and strip the rights of working-class migrants – we stand for solidarity, equality and freedom.

Scapegoating, ending free movement and attacking migrants’ rights are attacks on all workers. They make migrant workers more precarious and vulnerable to hyperexploitation, pressing down wages and conditions for everyone. They divide us, making it harder to unionise and push back.

Labour offers real solutions to fix the problems which are unfairly and incorrectly blamed on migrants themselves: public funding for good jobs; homes, services and social security for everyone; scrapping anti-union laws to support workers organising for improved conditions and wages. Migrant workers are already central to trade union campaigns beating low pay and exploitation, in spite of prevailing attitudes and Tory legislation.

Labour will include in the manifesto pledges to:

  • Oppose the current Tory immigration legislation and any curbing of rights.
  • Campaign for free movement, equality and rights for migrants.
  • Reject any immigration system based on incomes, migrants’ utility to business, and number caps/targets.
  • Close all detention centres.
  • Ensure unconditional right to family reunion.
  • Maintain and extend free movement rights.
  • End “no recourse to public funds” policies.
  • Scrap all Hostile Environment measures, use of landlords and public service providers as border guards, and restrictions on migrants’ NHS access.
  • Actively challenge anti-immigrant narratives.
  • Extend equal rights to vote to all UK residents

Mover: Camberwell and Peckham CLP
Seconder: Edinburgh Central CLP

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