Carwyn Jones slams Jeremy Corbyn’s immigration stance

Welsh first minister suggests free movement for those who have already secured a job


Carwyn Jones, Labour’s first minister in Wales, has attacked Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott’s approaches to immigration, arguing that they are too London centric and risk driving traditional Labour voters into the hands of UKIP.

His comments in the Guardian follow Corbyn and Abbott’s attempts to defend the free movement of people, despite the EU referendum result in June.

Asked for his views on their stance, Jones said:

“The danger is that’s a very London-centric position. That is not the way people see it outside London. London is very different: it is a cosmopolitan city and has high levels of immigration. It has that history. It is not the way many other parts of the UK are.”

Following the election of Paul Nuttall as UKIP Leader, who has pledged to targeted Labour held seats, especially across the north, Jones went on to warn of Labour voters being driven to the UKIP cause. He explained:

“People see it very differently in Labour-supporting areas of the north of England, for example. We have to be very careful that we don’t drive our supporters into the arms of UKIP. When I was on the doorstep in June, a lot of people said: ‘We’re voting out, Mr Jones, but, don’t worry, we’re still Labour.’ What I don’t want is for those people to jump to voting UKIP.”

Asked by the Guardian if he would like to see Labour’s approach to immigration change, the leader of Welsh Labour said:

“It does not reflect the UK. It reflects one unusual, large city in the UK. We have to make sure there are more authentic voices around the UK within the party who people feel are addressing them in their own language and using their own accents.”

While the Welsh government is seeking to ensure the UK has ‘full and fair access’ to the Single Market following any Brexit settlement, Jones went on to explain:

“There has to be compromise. If you accept access to the single market is the most important thing, you have to think about a different way of dealing with migration. There is no doubt in my mind that for many people the current system of freedom of movement is a problem. You can’t ignore it and say we won’t worry.

“Do we look at alternatives, for example, like freedom of movement if you’ve got a job? I think a lot of people would find that reasonable. People who voted Brexit on the issue of migration would say that sounds fair enough to us. People who don’t like immigrants are never going to be satisfied but there are ways of keeping elements of free movement that might be enough to enable us to have access to the single market.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward

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9 Responses to “Carwyn Jones slams Jeremy Corbyn’s immigration stance”

  1. NHSGP

    So if it was a London centric policy, then Labour would have done brilliantly in Richmond. A pro migration constituency. That was a fail.

    So what about Sleaford, and leave constituency? Beaten into 4th place, almost losing a deposit.

    Perhaps that tells you something about Labour, and its not migration.

    **** “Do we look at alternatives, for example, like freedom of movement if you’ve got a job?

    How does that work? Min wage migrants turn up, drive down wages and hence tax revenues. They also consume resources. Way more than the average state spend of 12K. There’s redistribution and they are poor, they get more state spending.

    It’s not about liking or disliking immigrants. That’s why you are haemorrhaging votes. Insulting the people you want to vote for you doesn’t work. It’s about the policy and you can’t grok that.

    It’s free access to state services, below cost, with someone else being made poorer for your policies.

    You can’t have free movement and free at the point of use.

    Pick one, but just one. The public have. They have voted for the NHS and rejected free movement.

  2. Boffy

    Sleaford and Richmond Park shows that Carwen Jones is completely wrong! The 48%, and all those beyond them who did not vote in the Referendum, represent a progressive bloc of voters throughout the country who stand closer to Corbyn and Abbot. If Labour were to appeal to that 48% on a progressive pro-Remain basis, they could win that bloc of votes. The fact of that has been shown by the way that vote has quickly rallied to the banner of the Liberals, who give a clear pro-Remain stance.

    Of course, Labour should not present the kind of uncritical pro-EU business stance that the Liberals offer, that would not just be unprincipled, but would also fail to deal with the concerns of the 30% of Labour voters who voted Leave. But, nor should we accommodate to the nationalistic and bigoted basis of the idea that influenced that 30% of Labour voters. It is not immigration of free movement of Labour that has caused the de-industrialisation of Britain, and the decay over the last 30 years of urban areas, but the conservative policies started by Thatcher and continued by Major, Blair and Brown, that favoured low wages, low skills, and a credit based economy, where it was thought the country could survive not by raising its productive capacity, but by year after year simply inflating the paper prices of its houses, shares and bonds!

    In fact, anyone who remembers “Auf Widersehen Pet”, will know just how damaging for British workers an end to free movement is likely to be in coming years as an isolated and declining British economy sees unemployment rise, as it did in the 80’s, and British workers would be only to glad to seek work in Germany, France, and elsewhere, as those economies recover and grow more strongly.

    Instead of accommodating to the ideas of nationalism and xenophobia which are the territory of the Tories and their right-wing outriders, Labour should continue to argue for internationalism, for the need to Remain in Europe, where we can fight for a better future with other European workers, and we should state clearly that the cause of the problems of lack of housing, schools, hospitals and infrastructure spending resides not with the EU or immigrants but with successive governments Labour and Tory over the last thirty years that failed to invest in all those things, in order instead to pander to the interests of a tiny group of money-owning capitalists.

  3. Craig Mackay

    NHSGP is wrong about a number of his or her claims. The current EU regulations (see: are much more restrictive than the UK government has implemented. Under those EU regulations if properly managed, immigrants do not have free access to state services unless they are employed. If they come into the UK unemployed they are supposed to have medical insurance cover. NHS hospitals virtually never insist on that. The HMRC reports estimate migrants contribute £3.1 billion per annum to the UK budget in taxes and only take out £0.56 billion in benefits. There is very little evidence that migrants are driving down wages. You’re absolutely right that the NHS remains the top priority but most of the NHS problems are because the funding from central government is not keeping up with demand. That is particularly true for social care leading to a continuous blockage in the flow through hospitals. It’s not fair or proper to blame immigrants for all this when it’s actually a consequence of austerity punishing the poor who voted to Leave.
    If we do actually leave the European Union, the NHS will see none of the £350 million per week promised by the Leave campaign for the NHS. The economic downturn will undoubtedly lead to further pressure on NHS funding and that is before you start to worry about staffing the NHS when immigrants will find it extremely difficult to come into the UK at all. Leave will be an unmitigated disaster for the NHS that makes the current austerity seem very light-touch.

  4. Michael WALKER

    “There is very little evidence that migrants are driving down wages”

    Yes: UK wages are booming! NOT.

    I take it you don’t live in the real world.

  5. GodfreyR

    Uncontrolled immigration has caused:

    – lower British worker wages
    – longer queues for our NHS services
    – longer queues and cuts in our Local Authority services
    – higher housing costs
    – greater threat from terrorism
    – major cultural costs in our inner-cities

  6. Craig Mackay

    Yes, thats what the Daily Mail says.But is this the because of immigration or because thegovernment refuses to transferthe taxes paid my migrants to the services they need? Thegovermenthas blamed all the effects of austerityon migrants, and not accepted it is the real cause!

  7. Will

    Labour under Corbyn has been very half hearted in its support for remaining in the EU. Corbyns position on Free Movement is all very well but there is far more to Europe than that.
    Mays position is ridiculous and wouldn’t stand up to any consistent criticism but until Labour attacks Brexit with a bit more enthusiasm they will continue to lose support to the Lib Dems who give the impression of being the only party that realy cares about avoiding a Hard Brexit.

  8. Paul Lynch

    Erm, excuse me but how does Labour predictably losing two by-elections in Tory heartlands, Richmond and Sleaford, where Labour has never ever had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, with or without Jeremy Corbyn as leader, prove anything about his immigration stance?

  9. Martin Grubb

    Craig Mackay would not be worrying about any refusal of Government to transfer the migrant tax dividend of £2.5bn (per HMRC) if he had realised that it represented only 0.3% of UK public expenditure for the year in question, 2014, or that it only included tax credits/child benefit but excluded housing benefit and any participation in health (including maternity) or education or travel facilities or any service that had a public expenditure constituent. He might also consider why the EU migrant tax take of £3.11bn represented only 1.2% of the total UK NI/income tax take when EU migrants accounted for between 3%-6% of the workforce, depending on how the difference between IPS surveys and NI numbers is accounted for.

    But it is wholly unfair to blame migrants for this, in terms of national income, insignificant fiscal contribution just as much as it is to imply that they can or should make a greater tax contribution than the rest of the population. How could they when they pay the same rate of tax as those they work alongside. However those more statistically aware will have realised that all workers with the same employment characteristics as migrants will also be only able to make a similar limited fiscal contribution BECAUSE LOW PAY IS THE COMMON FEATURE THEREFORE MAKING ANY SIGNIFICANT FISCAL CONTRIBUTION IMPOSSIBLE. Migration hasincreased the numbers at the bottom end of income distribution where there will be an increasingly dependency on benefits to support family responsibilities as we continue to subsidise employers exploiting the low wage racket facilitated by cheap and non unionised labour. If Craig Mackay wants to know who deluded him into thinking that 0.3% of total public expenditure represented a ‘substantial contribution’ he should ‘follow the money’ and identify those who most profit from immigration and then consider the hold in protecting their interests that they appear to exercise over the left, aided by an unfortunate inability of politicians and the commentariat to assemble and assess evidence or, it must be said, understand simple percentages.

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