Long-Bailey says Labour must “be pragmatic” about free movement

Sienna Rodgers

Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey has said that there is a need for pragmatism in the debate about whether the UK should maintain EU freedom of movement.

In an interview with Novara Media on Tuesday evening, the Shadow Business Secretary was asked about the kind of immigration system she would argue for as an alternative to Boris Johnson’s points-based proposal.

She replied: “I don’t think a points-based system is the way to do it. I think we need a system that’s based on values, and not targets. Already the government’s plans for a points-based immigration system has been heavily criticised.

Long-Bailey then added: “We’ve got to be pragmatic about this. I’m in favour of free movement, and I’ll be honest about that. But where we are now is not leading us down that path.

“I don’t think the government is going to want to join the EEA… so they’re going to try and negotiate a separate bilateral agreement that is going to have some element of immigration-related terms within there.

“The EU is unlikely to agree to freedom of movement unless we agree to the other freedoms, which would involve either being a member of the EEA or a member of the EU. And our government doesn’t want to accept those.

“So, our job as the opposition now is to recognise that that’s probably the reality, but fight for as much fairness as we can get in that system that is developed going forward.”

Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer, who are also standing for the Labour leadership, have both come out in favour of maintaining free movement beyond Brexit.

Long-Bailey also defended her decision to sign up to the Board of Deputies’ pledges, to which all four leadership candidates have agreed to implement if elected to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

On the specific pledge that says any Labour member should be suspended if they support another suspended member, Long-Bailey said: “You’re suspended for a very serious reason. Suspensions aren’t given lightly.”

The leadership hopeful was also asked about Heathrow expansion, which she said she was against. She explained that she didn’t actively abstain on the vote in 2018 but had a constituency meeting.

She also said she would not give any interviews to The Sun, either during her leadership campaign or in the event of being elected Labour’s next leader. However, she would give an interview to Alastair Campbell, who she described as “quite a good spin doctor”.

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