Labour leadership Sir Keir Starmer has said he would bring back freedom of movement if he became prime minister. At a speech to make Brexit day, the shadow Brexit secretary said the divisions between Leave and Remain must end – and made a passionate defence of EU freedom of movement.
Keir Starmer said: “I want families to be able to live together, whether that’s in Europe or here, and I want people in this country, in the United Kingdom, to be able to go and study in Europe just as they can now and people in Europe to be able to come and study here.
“We have to make the case for freedom of movement.”
Asked if he would bring it back if he was in No10, Sir Keir Starmer said: “Yes, of course. Bring back, argue for, challenge”.
Boris Johnson has ruled out allowing freedom of movement to continue after Brexit, making a new immigration policy a key plank of the Tory election manifesto.
Sir Keir Starmer also defended his support for a second referendum, which has been blamed by some parts of the party for Labour’s catastrophic electoral defeat in December.
Asked if he had any regrets, he said: “Theresa May’s deal was a bad deal. It didn’t protect workplace rights, environmental rights, consumer rights.
“It was a bad deal which would lead to a very, very hard Brexit and we were right to oppose it.
“Let’s not rewrite that. Let’s not pretend it was a good deal somehow.”
There were many reasons why Labour lost the election including Brexit, he said, but added that arguing Brexit alone was the cause was “plain wrong”.
“If we go down that route we will not get to the bottom of the challenge we face and we will lose another general election,” he said.
Keir Starmer used his speech to call for voting rights for EU nationals remaining in the country as a statement of support.
“We need to give our EU citizens rights not tolerance and that starts with the right to vote,” he said.
“I challenge the government to give EU citizens the right to vote and be properly citizens of our country… We welcome migrants, we don’t scapegoat them.”
He did not rule out extending the right to people from other countries when pressed by the audience at an event in central London.