The referendum campaign was divisive, immature and unnecessary. I do not believe we should ever have had a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. Only David Cameron’s horrendous negotiating skills made it necessary. Reducing such complex issues to a yes/no answer does nothing to stimulate healthy political debate and pits one side viciously against another.
Post-referendum, we have a chance to come together again as a country and secure the best deal possible. That deal must have working people as its core concern. Labour is best placed to protect the undeniable benefits the EU brought, but our critique has always understood its failings, and so we’re best placed to make Brexit a success.
We must first guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in this country. Nobody should come and make a life here, contribute fully and then have a question mark hanging over their right to remain. Only the callous politics of UKIP and the BNP would send people back to their country of origin simply because they are not British citizens, and I condemn it.
For the future, we must be outward looking in a truly internationalist sense. For too long have we prioritised unrestricted movement between European countries to the detriment of a properly managed immigration policy which values the Commonwealth and wider world as much as it does the EU.
It is a bizarre situation that the public feels immigration is so high, but there is a shortage of chefs for Indian and Pakistani restaurants due to stringent immigration rules. These shortages show another clear opportunity of Brexit – levelling the playing field between European immigrants and those who come from elsewhere. As an internationalist, I believe in a fair system for all, not better deals for people from a particular region. Humanitarian compassion, family ties, established communities, the need for skills – these should guide our immigration policy, not simple nationality.
In an effort to reduce immigration, the Tories restricted the numbers of students coming to our country to study. We must keep welcoming students to our world beating universities, and retaining their skills when they have finished their studies.
It is also shameful that we do not welcome Syrian refugees, further proof that our immigration policies are not fit for purpose.
When we leave the EU, the Labour Party can adopt more sensible and humane immigration policies that look to our communities, our economy and what they need in order to succeed. The UK should become an example of humanitarianism for the world to follow.
Workers’ rights are a key part of our post-Brexit world. The Labour government of 1997-2010 introduced workers’ rights that were far and above the statutory EU minimum. We can use our parliament to advance workers’ rights beyond those offered by EU membership. We should be empowering unions so that workers can advance their rights from the bottom up, so that those rights are suited to their circumstances and their workplace.
During the campaign, claims were made about how funds that go to the EU can be used to fund the NHS. The government is now unwilling to use that money as it said it would. I will fight for all gains from Brexit to be spent on the NHS and public services, not on tax cuts for millionaires.
The UK government has always been able to give us more than the minimum offered by the European Union, but the Tories always choose not to. A Labour Government should not settle for the minimum of EU membership. We must be bold and ambitious for our communities.
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