Free movement set to dominate Labour conference debate as new migration report released

Wednesday, 20 September, 2017
  • New report, backed by MPs and unions, recommends a system of “free movement +” – with a raft of new measures to safeguard workplace rights
  • Labour Party conference set to debate motion on free movement submitted by Young Labour and constituency parties from across the country
  • Experts and campaigners warn of Tory agenda to create “underclass” of hyper-exploited migrant workers

A new report, published by influential campaign group Another Europe is Possible, has been released today. Brexit and immigration: prioritising the rights of all workers can be viewed here.

The report is backed by MPs and trade unionists, with a lengthy introduction from Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Corbyn-supporting union TSSA.  Its release comes as Labour Party conference is due to hold a landmark debate on free movement and migration after Brexit, with motions submitted by the Party’s youth wing Young Labour and a number of constituency parties from across the country. The motions have now been accepted onto the agenda by Labour’s Conference Arrangements Committee.

The Labour Campaign for Free Movement has already brought together nearly 3,000 party members in support of a free movement position, including MPs Clive Lewis, David Lammy, Tulip Siddiq and Geraint Davies.
The 28-page report looks at a variety of different case-studies and proposals for post-Brexit migration systems and concludes that “the simple reality is that migrants with fewer rights will be more vulnerable to super-exploitation. Whenever and wherever this happens all workers will suffer.” It recommends:

  • The retention of a rights-based migration system (free movement) ‘plus’ a series of strengthened workers’ rights and social protections
  • Using UK legislation to institute sector-by-sector bargaining systems to establish minimum pay and conditions
  • A review of the Posted Workers Directive, and a ban on ‘foreign only’ recruitment practices
  • Inspections and strictly enforced penalties for unscrupulous employers
  • A clear, secure guarantee of rights for migrants, referencing the EU Fundamental Charter of Rights and using the jurisdiction of the ECJ

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said:

"This year's conference provides an opportunity for the Labour movement to take a clear, principled position on immigration that makes sense and benefits everyone - after decades of retreating.  As this report sets out, we can and must win the fight for free movement - by marrying it with a radical social and economic policy that puts power and agency back into the hands of ordinary people."

Young Labour, the party’s official youth wing, has submitted the motion backing free movement, alongside a number of CLPs. Caroline Hill, national chair of Young Labour, said:

"I'm proud that Young Labour is leading the fight for free movement and migrants' rights inside the party and beyond. This motion was passed unanimously by our national committee and we are determined to win it in Brighton next week.
"Like everyone else, young workers face exploitation, poverty pay and a housing crisis. We need real solutions - a union in every workplace, massive investment and higher minimum wages - not restrictive border controls that attack the rights of ordinary working people and limit our potential"

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA union, gives a lengthy introduction to the report. In it he argues:

“Some [Tories] even consciously think of the Brexit process as a tool to create an underground, black market economy in Britain, in which the penalty for standing up to your boss is deportation.
“The antidote to this agenda is not the restriction of free movement, but an end to workers’ exploitation. We need a properly regulated labour market and a trade union in every workplace. The Tories and bosses seek to divide us. Our job is to create unity on the basis of class, not national origin.”


1. For more information please ring Michael on 07964791663 or Kevin on 07711875345. The authors of the report, and a variety of other spokespeople, are available for comment.
2. Labour Party conference will take place Sunday 24th September to Wednesday 27th September.  The motion submitted to Labour conference by Young Labour and a number of CLPs can be read in full here.
3. The full report Brexit and immigration: prioritising the rights of all workers can be viewed here.
4. Another Europe is Possible is a coalition of progressives fighting Hard Tory Brexit. It campaigned for Remain in the EU referendum on an explicitly left wing basis, and has brought together the Green Party, Momentum, several trade unions and campaigning organisations such as Global Justice Now. Its website can be viewed at
5. The Labour Party Campaign for Free Movement was established in August to defend and extend the free movement of people in the context of the debate around Brexit. Its website can be viewed at
6. Caroline Hill’s quote (above) is not under embargo