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Tom Watson plans "last throw of the dice" to achieve Jeremy Corbyn's departure

Labour's deputy leader tells MPs that he will meet trade union leaders tomorrow to try and negotiate a settlement. 

Tom Watson is to meet trade union leaders tomorrow in a final attempt to negotiate the departure of Jeremy Corbyn. "A last throw of the dice" was how Labour's deputy leader described the move at the first Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting since MPs' vote of no confidence in Corbyn. Watson warned that "the window is closing" for an agreement, a sentiment shared by putative challengers Angela Eagle and Owen Smith whom he met today. 

The deputy leader held a 20-minute meeting with Corbyn this morning and urged him to resign having lost colleagues' backing. Three MPs who backed the leader in last week's confidence vote (Pat Glass, Liz McInnes and Andrew Smith) have since called for his departure. Fabian Hamilton, who abstained, has also demanded Corbyn's resignation. 

Members' support alone, Watson warned, was not enough. But a spokesman for the deputy leader said Corbyn "gave no indication that he would resign". Unless at least some of the "big four" unions - Unite, Unison, the GMB and the CWU - move against Corbyn, a leadership contest looks inevitable. 

The most dramatic moment of the evening was provided by Neil Kinnock, the man who defeated Labour's far-left in the 1980s. In a furiously impassioned speech, the former leader moved MPs to tears as he declared that he would not allow the party to split after 60 years as a member. "We are not leaving our party. We are going to fight and we are going to win!" he cried, thumping the table as he spoke.

Kinnock emphasised that Labour chose to take "the parliamentary route to socialism" in 1918, not the revolutionary one. He also made a crack at the expense of Dennis Skinner, who noted that voters in supermarkets told MPs that Ed Miliband was unelectable. "Apply your supermarket test to Corbyn!" he quipped. Whether or not the Labour leader passes that test, his allies are confident he will pass the members' one. 

Update: This piece wrongly described Lyn Brown and Rob Marris (who abstained) as having supported Jeremy Corbyn in the no confidence vote. The error has been corrected.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Brexit is teaching the UK that it needs immigrants

Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past.

Why did the UK vote to leave the EU? For conservatives, Brexit was about regaining parliamentary sovereignty. For socialists it was about escaping the single market. For still more it was a chance to punish David Cameron and George Osborne. But supreme among the causes was the desire to reduce immigration.

For years, as the government repeatedly missed its target to limit net migration to "tens of thousands", the EU provided a convenient scapegoat. The free movement of people allegedly made this ambition unachievable (even as non-European migration oustripped that from the continent). When Cameron, the author of the target, was later forced to argue that the price of leaving the EU was nevertheless too great, voters were unsurprisingly unconvinced.

But though the Leave campaign vowed to gain "control" of immigration, it was careful never to set a formal target. As many of its senior figures knew, reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year would come at an economic price (immigrants make a net fiscal contribution of £7bn a year). An OBR study found that with zero net migration, public sector debt would rise to 145 per cent of GDP by 2062-63, while with high net migration it would fall to 73 per cent. For the UK, with its poor productivity and sub-par infrastructure, immigration has long been an economic boon. 

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, some cabinet members hoped that she would abolish the net migration target in a "Nixon goes to China" moment. But rather than retreating, the former Home Secretary doubled down. She regards the target as essential on both political and policy grounds (and has rejected pleas to exempt foreign students). But though the same goal endures, Brexit is forcing ministers to reveal a rarely spoken truth: Britain needs immigrants.

Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. On last night's Question Time, Brexit secretary David Davis conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall following Brexit. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants."

Though Davis insisted that the government would eventually meet its "tens of thousands" target (while sounding rather unconvinced), he added: "The simple truth is that we have to manage this problem. You’ve got industry dependent on migrants. You’ve got social welfare, the national health service. You have to make sure they continue to work."

As my colleague Julia Rampen has charted, Davis's colleagues have inserted similar caveats. Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary, who warned during the referendum that EU immigration could “overwhelm” Britain, has told farmers that she recognises “how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses”. Others, such as the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, have issued similar guarantees to employers. Brexit is fuelling immigration nimbyism: “Fewer migrants, please, but not in my sector.”

The UK’s vote to leave the EU – and May’s decision to pursue a "hard Brexit" – has deprived the government of a convenient alibi for high immigration. Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past. Brexit may have been caused by the supposed costs of immigration but it is becoming an education in its benefits.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.