Published On: Tue, Aug 20th, 2019

Brexit news: Diane Abbott fails to confirm freedom of movement will end under Labour | UK | News

The Shadow Home Secretary was asked by the BBC radio host whether her party’s policy on freedom of movement to end the single market agreement with the EU after was “unequivocal”. BBC Radio 4 host Justin Webb asked: “Are you saying unquestionably that it is still Labour policy that freedom of movement – and, of course, it runs both ways and a lot of young Labour supporters in particular like the idea of freedom of movement and being able to go to the European Union – it still ends at the moment under a Labour deal, if there would ever be one?”

But Ms Abbott failed to provide the radio presenter with a clear answer on her party policy on freedom of movement. 

She said: “In practice, it’s how you do it. And you have to take notice of what businesses are saying, you have to take notice of what EU nationals are saying, and you have to take notice of the fact that a lot of Labour voters actually do support some sort of freedom of movement.”

Asked whether freedom of movement might then not end under Labour, taken notice of the above things, Ms Abbott replied again: “When we leave the EU, when we leave the single market, in fact, freedom of movement falls.

“But it is how you do it.”

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She added: “You’ve got to have a practical process. The process that Boris is suggesting is not a practical process and will cause harm to people.

“It will cause harm, actually, to British nationals in the EU.”

At this point, Mr Webb pointed out: “So, in those circumstances, you’re saying you can envisage deal where, never mind the manifesto saying freedom of movement will end, actually in effect, in the circumstances that you are envisaging, it might not actually end in practice.”

But the Labour frontbencher lost it. She blasted: “I’m grateful to you Justin for putting words into my mouth but I rather stick with what I’m saying, which is it’s how you do it.”

The exchange comes as the Government confirmed in the event of a no deal Brexit, freedom of movement would cease. This would take place on the Brexit deadline, October 31, 2019.

Responding to the announcement, The3million group, which campaigns for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK said: “Ending freedom of movement without putting legal provisions in place for those EU citizens who have not yet successfully applied through the settlement scheme will mean that millions of lawful citizens will have their legal status removed overnight.”

In a statement, the Home Office said: “EU citizens and their families still have until at least December 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and one million people have already been granted status.

“Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on 31 October when the UK leaves the EU, and after Brexit, the Government will introduce a new, fairer immigration system that prioritises skills and what people can contribute to the UK, rather than where they come from.”

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Diane Abbott said ending freedom of movement on October 31 in the event of no deal would “create chaos” and “make Windrush look like a minor blip”.

She said: “I think it’s going to create chaos, it’s going to be very problematic for business, but it’s going to be very difficult for EU nationals.

“There are currently three million here altogether, a million have registered for settled status, there’s no possibility of two million registering between now and October 31, and then those EU nationals that were here but haven’t registered for settled status will be in the exact same position as the Windrush people.

“There will be people that came here perfectly legally, but will not have the paperwork to prove that and will have all sorts of problems with employers and the NHS and so on.”

She added: “The way Boris is doing it is heading to a catastrophe (which) will make Windrush look like a minor blip.”

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