Labour backs free movement and voting rights for foreign nationals

25 September 2019, 15:58

A number of big pledges have been agreed at the conference
A number of big pledges have been agreed at the conference. Picture: PA
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

The Labour Party has agreed to back a pledge to extend free movement and give foreign nationals living in the UK the right to vote if it wins the next election.

It will also campaign to end "hostile environment" policies - which have been held responsible for the Windrush scandal - and close all migrant detention centres.

Any immigration system "based on incomes, migrants' utility to business and number caps/targets" will also be rejected.

Party delegates voted in favour of these pledges on the last day of Labour's annual conference in Brighton on Wednesday.

It comes after several days of agreeing to several other large pledges for its general election manifesto, including the introduction of a four-day week, to provide free care for the elderly, and to commit the UK to net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

READ MORE: Labour backs 'revolutionary' 2030 net zero emissions target - but experts aren't so sure

In the motion approved on Wednesday, the party said a restriction on migrants' rights could extend to negatively affect everyone in the UK.

"Scapegoating, ending free movement and attacking migrants' rights are attacks on all workers," it said.

"They make migrant workers more precarious and vulnerable to hyperexploitation, pressing down wages and conditions for everyone.

"They divide us, making it harder to unionise and push back."

The motion went on to explain that it would "actively challenge anti-immigrant narratives", adding that its pledges would seek to "fix the problems which are unfairly and incorrectly blamed on migrants themselves."

In response, Home Secretary Priti Patel said such policies would do little but "potentially allow dangerous illegal immigrants to roam our streets."

"The British people voted to take back control. It's only Boris Johnson and the Conservatives who will deliver Brexit by 31 October and end free movement once and for all."

But Mrs Patel's criticism did little to quash Labour's jubilation at the vote.

In a tweet, the Labour for Free Movement campaign marked Wednesday as a "fight back against xenophobia" after it said the conference voted "unanimously" in favour of the motion.

It added: "And [the day] it came out fighting tooth and nail for migrants' rights."