David Miliband slams Labour's 2019 election approach
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The Labour leader is understood to be preparing a speech on the UK’s immigration strategy outside the EU in a bid to prove his party can be trusted on taking back control. The party suffered humiliation at the polls in 2019 after Labour’s manifesto promised a second EU referendum and outlined plans to protect the rights of free movement even if Britain voted for a second time to quit.
Dozens of constituencies in former strongholds for the party backed the Tories for the first time in decades in order to “get Brexit done”.
Just months after the drubbing at the ballot box, when Sir Keir was campaiging to be made Labour leader, he pledged to continue supporting the UK’s former open borders policy.
He promised the party’s members he would “defend free movement as we leave the EU”.
But fearing his party will still not be trusted by voters unless he shifts his stance, he is now preparing a speech to fully set out Labour’s policy.
Set to be delivered ahead of the annual party conference in September, he will promise not to reverse free movement and set out how he would tackle matters such as illegal immigration.
A Labour source told The Times: “Keir recognises that it’s time to put a line in the sand and stop any speculation about what our position on immigration might be.”
The Opposition leader has been vocally critical of the Government’s deal with Rwanda to resettle those who arrive illegally in the African country.
But he had failed to explain what he would do if in No10 to address the issue himself.
Sir Keir has struggled to keep his own MPs on message when it comes to Brexit and free movement.
Just last week it emerged a member of his frontbench had hinted the party could push for a full return to EU membership.
Shadow minister for victims and youth justice, Anna McMorrin, told Labour members at a meeting: “I hope eventually we will get back into the single market and the customs union and who knows in the future.”
Yesterday, backbencher Stella Creasy also spoke out about the need for rejoining the customs union.
“For fear of saying the wrong thing, many in Labour claim it is better to say nothing at all about Brexit,” she wrote in The Observer.
“But such reticence does not honour those who voted Leave — or Remain.”
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The chairwoman of the Labour Movement for Europe added: “We can’t solve the cost-of-living crisis without revisiting what leaving the single market and customs union has done to grocery shopping.”
A spokesman for Sir Keir was forced to shut down talk of rejoining the single market in the wake of Ms McMorrin’s remarks.
He said: “Policy is clear.
“We need a strong relationship with EU partners but that does not involve membership of the customs union or the single market.”
The pressure from Labour MPs comes amid continued speculation that the party has done a deal with the Lib Dems to help oust the Conservatives.
The Lib Dems remain fierce critics of Brexit and have been unashamed in promoting the overturning of Brexit.
Last month the party’s leader, Ed Davey, indicated he was looking to force Sir Keir to adopt a more pro-EU stance if Labour was a minority government after the next election.
He said a hung parliament means “you can exercise influence in many, many ways”.
The europhile added: “They key thing for me is making sure that we have the numbers to be able to influence that, so we can move away from this frankly indecent Government that’s got no moral authority, that’s got no plan for our country, and replace it with a Parliament where – it may be different parties put their ideas together – we work for the national interest.”
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