Labour must take tougher line on ‘mass migration’ from Europe Miliband told
Party is losing working class, say senior MPs, as shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander sets out EU reform plan.
Ed Miliband is facing a backbench revolt over immigration policy as senior Labour MPs publicly warn of catastrophic consequences for the party unless he seeks constraints on the free movement of EU workers.
The unrestricted entry of EU citizens from eastern Europe since 2004 is hurting the “very communities that the Labour party was founded to represent”, the MPs claim in an open letter published in the Observer.
Miliband is urged by the rebels, including two former ministers, to commit a Labour government to seeking to constrain the free movement of labour from European countries with much lower incomes than the UK, such as Romania and Bulgaria. Two million national insurance numbers have been issued to nationals from eastern European accession countries since 2004.
In an attempt to force Miliband’s hand, the MPs claim that the “political consequences of these trends could prove catastrophic for our party unless voters can see we are intent on taking serious action”. The MPs’ public show of frustration follows a speech by Miliband in Thurrock, Essex, last week in which he reached out to Ukip voters by claiming to understand their concerns while signalling that he would not be offering false promises of radical changes to migration policy in the EU.
The seven rebel MPs, who include Frank Field, Kate Hoey and John Mann, expect to attract further support within the parliamentary party over the coming weeks. They claim that the party’s position as it stands is not radical enough.
John Prescott also sided with those wanting significant change to Britain’s relationship with the EU. Calling for “radical reform”, the former deputy prime minister wrote in his Sunday Mirror column: “One of the key reforms should be a review and reform of the ‘freedom of movement’ to ‘fair movement’,” stating that any labour market needs “rules not complete freedom”.
- The Observer,