Starmer vows to “bring back” EU free movement after Brexit

Elliot Chappell

Labour leadership candidate Keir Starmer has said that he would “bring back” freedom of movement after the UK leaves the European Union.

Addressing a crowd at Westminster Cathedral on Brexit Day, which will see the UK leave the EU at 11pm, the Shadow Brexit Secretary talked about the future of the country post-Brexit.

Asked by The Mirror’s Dan Bloom whether he would bring back freedom of movement after the country exits the European bloc, the leadership hopeful replied: “Yes of course – bring back, argue for, challenge.”

Starmer kicked off the event by saying: “We do leave the EU tonight, and the Leave-Remain divide goes with it… And that includes for the Labour Party.”

The Holborn and St Pancras MP added: “We have to make the case for freedom of movement.”

He also said that the Labour Party had to face some “home truths”, explaining: “We haven’t even begun to address why some people voted Leave.”

However, in a move less likely to attract support from pro-EU Labour members, Starmer also appeared to row back on Labour’s 2019 manifesto offer of full voting rights to all UK residents.

During his speech, he said: “Let’s think about those EU citizens. This government has treated them like we tolerate them. ‘Tolerate’ them… We need to give our EU citizens rights not tolerance. And that starts with the right to vote.”

But asked whether the right to vote for EU nationals would be extended to people from other countries also living in the UK, Starmer said: “People from other countries already have votes in certain circumstances.”

The Labour leadership candidate cited the case of Commonwealth citizens, who are able to vote in UK general elections, and added: “We have to look at this in the round.”

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.

Nondiscriminatory national voting rights are rare, with New Zealand being a notable exception. After Brexit, it will be a matter of national jurisdiction and subject to bilateral agreements with individual countries.

The UK government has confirmed that EU nationals in the UK will be able to vote in the 2020 local elections as they will not be removed from the register before May.

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