Brexit comes in all shapes and sizes: hard, soft, clean. Today, Labour added a new type: a ‘reckless Tory Brexit’. That’s what Keir Starmer accused the Government of trying to drive through as he detailed Labour’s plan for waving goodbye to the EU. The main purpose of Starmer’s tour of the airwaves was to clear some of the mud out of the water of Labour’s Brexit tonic. To be fair to Starmer, he did manage to offer some clarity: there would be no second referendum under Labour, which puts helpful space between the party and the Lib Dems who have promised voters a second say. Staying in the single market also remained an option that was ‘on the table’ if it was Corbyn doing the deal making in Brussels, according to Starmer. Labour also managed to score a rare point against the Tories this morning by saying that a Corbyn government would guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK on day one. But Starmer’s main problem was that he was doomed before he even opened his mouth.
When he took questions from journalists after his speech, he said that freedom of movement would come to an end. Yet it seems, as ever, that not all of his colleagues in the shadow cabinet agree with him. Diane Abbott has insisted repeatedly that abolishing freedom of movement was a no-go, saying as recently as last month that freedom of movement was a worker’s right:
‘In all societies where there are significantly greater freedoms for business and for capital than for workers, then in practice workers’ rights are severely curtailed’
Of course, Abbott isn’t alone in sticking up for freedom of movement. In his famously wishy-washy speech at the start of the year, Jeremy Corbyn said that ‘Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle’.