Election 2017

Labour would let EU nationals stay in the UK

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said a Labour government would guarantee the right of EU nationals to remain in the UK 'on day one'
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said a Labour government would guarantee the right of EU nationals to remain in the UK 'on day one'

Related tags European union United kingdom Eu

A Labour government would guarantee the rights of all non-UK EU nationals currently living in the UK to stay after Brexit, the party’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer pledged yesterday (April 25).

“On day one of a Labour government, we will immediately guarantee that all EU nationals currently living in the UK will see no change in their legal status as a result of Brexit, and we will seek reciprocal rights for UK citizens in the EU,” ​Starmer said, in Darlington (see video below).

“A Labour approach to Brexit also means a new approach to how we treat EU nationals in the UK. EU nationals do not just contribute to our society, they are our society. They should not be used as bargaining chips.”

Sector urgently needed assurances

Food and drink manufacturers currently employ about 100,000 EU nationals in the UK. A range of food manufacturing bosses – including Greencore ceo Patrick Coveney and Wyke Farms md Richard Clothier – have stressed their firms’ reliance on EU migrant labour.

Leading food organisations, including the Food and Drink Federation, National Farmers Union and retailers, have also urged the government to guarantee the rights of EU workers in Britain after Brexit.

Starmer’s pledge came after the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) today said that 59% of small businesses with EU workers were worried about accessing people with the right skills after Brexit. More than a fifth of small businesses currently employ EU workers, an FSB report also found.

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “Securing the right to remain for EU workers in the UK must be a priority.

“There is real concern among small firms with EU staff that they will lose access to the skills and labour their business needs to survive and grow. EU workers are a vital part of our economy, helping to plug chronic skills gaps across a wide range of sectors, and filling jobs in an already tight labour market.”

Access to the Single Market

No-one was available from the Conservative party to respond to Labour’s pledge when asked by FoodManufacture.co.uk.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans would be thrown out, should Jeremy Corbyn move into 10 Downing Street after June’s snap general election, Starmer said. It’s new Brexit white paper would focus on retaining some access to the Single Market’s 510M consumers and the Customs Union.

“It is extraordinary that we have a prime minister who has given up on the Single Market and the Customs Union, even before negotiations have begun and it was received very badly by our EU partners,”​ he said.

“She has said repeatedly no deal is better than a bad deal, but Labour are very clear that no deal is the worst possible deal.”

Liberal Democrats response to Labour’s EU workers pledge

  • “Labour’s Brexit plan has more holes than a colander. This outline for Britain’s future is a litany of failures. They are failing to protect the UK economy by dragging the UK out of the Single Market. They are failing the people by refusing to give them a say on the final deal. And if Labour were serious about protecting the rights of EU citizens, why didn’t they stand up for them when they had the chance in Parliament? Instead they chose to abstain. The Liberal Democrats are the only party offering a way to stay in the EU. Giving the people a say on the final Brexit deal is the best way of avoiding the hard Brexit that Theresa May is driving us towards.”

Tim Farron, Liberal Democrats

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