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Jeremy Corbyn: Labour "not wedded to freedom of movement"

The Labour leader is walking a fine line between trying to please pro-Remain members and voters who want to Leave.

Jeremy Corbyn is expected to say Labour "is not wedded to freedom of movement" on principle in a Brexit speech on Tuesday.

But the Labour leader will also argue that the negotiators must focus on economic necessity and not make "false promises" on immigration. 

He is expected to say: “Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle. 

“But nor can we afford to lose full access to the European markets on which so many British businesses and jobs depend. Changes to the way migration rules operate from the EU will be part of the negotiations.

“Labour supports fair rules and reasonably managed migration as part of the post-Brexit relationship with the EU."

With a pro-Remain membership and marginal seats in Leave areas, Labour MPs are divided on whether the party should prioritise the single market or immigration during Brexit negotiations. 

Corbyn's speech hints at an attempt to find a compromise. He has pledged to close down "cheap labour loopholes" and exclusive advertising of jobs abroad, as well as a more protectionist industrial policy that includes state aid currently prohibited under EU rules. 

On the other hand, he is expected to say Labour "will push to maintain full access to the European single market to protect living standards and jobs" - a sop to pro-Remain members hoping for a soft Brexit.

Corbyn may wonder if he's said enough to placate both sides. No doubt he's looking forward to having a chance to try it out for real - in the by-election for the Labour-held seat of Copeland, which voted Leave.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.