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November 17, 2019

Corbyn and senior Labour figures meet to finalise manifesto

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P
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November 17, 2019

LONDON: Jeremy Corbyn had been joined by senior party figures on Saturday to hammer out the final details of the Labour manifesto amid mounting divisions over what stance would be taken on immigration.

The leader, his shadow cabinet, trade unions, affiliated organisations and the national policy forum were meeting to confirm the contents of the manifesto in central London. Immigration has re-emerged as a key General Election battleground and is expected be among the most heated discussions at Saturday’s clause V meeting.

Corbyn has previously committed to a “fair immigration process” which could include looking at whether freedom of movement will continue in the event of the UK leaving the EU. There are reports of a party split on the matter and Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said on Saturday that immigration is a “difficult” issue as there are “still different perspectives” within Labour. “I think they’re right to be talking about a practical deal that keeps us as close to Europe as possible,” Burnham told Sophy Ridge on Sky.

Pressed on whether he thinks Labour should back a position where free movement of people ends after Brexit, Mr Burnham said: “I think the public voted for change in the way the immigration arrangements work with Europe.

“To deny that, I think, would be to deny what many people were saying when they went to vote in 2016, and that’s just, in my view, a fact. It doesn’t help politicians, it doesn’t help Parliament, if they look like they’re kind of cocooned away from that public view.

“I think what we shouldn’t do is introduce wholesale change. Just some greater management of the system.” Corbyn arrived at the meeting accompanied by shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Len McCluskey, leader of Unite the Union, arrived moments later and approached protesters chanting in support of free movement at the entrance.

McCluskey shouted over them: “I’m going to support free movement and I support migrant workers.” Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said “end racism” as she passed the protesters while shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “We need to make sure we’ve got international staff - nurses and doctors who continue to work for the NHS.”

The Daily Telegraph reported that Corbyn faces a frontbench split, referring to claims that a draft version of Labour’s manifesto contains a commitment to freedom of movement.

The newspaper quoted a shadow cabinet source as saying: “If we maintain a close relationship with the single market then we are going to have to maintain freedom of movement. That’s a given.”

Meanwhile, The Independent reported that policies of extending free movement and giving foreign nationals the right to vote in all UK elections are expected to be watered down or scrapped.

Asked about the reports, a spokeswoman for Labour said: “We didn’t provide any guidance for them ahead of the manifesto and won’t be for others.”So far Labour has announced a plan to create a publicly-owned broadband entity to deliver free full-fibre internet to the entire nation, as well as boosts to the minimum wage and the NHS.

Full details of the manifesto are supposed to remain tightly-sealed until the formal unveiling on a date in future.

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