Starmer Says UK Economy Must Kick 'Immigration Dependency' Post-Brexit
© AP Photo / Toby MelvilleBritish Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, former British Prime Minister Theresa May and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attend the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph
© AP Photo / Toby Melville
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has flip-flopped from calling for a second referendum on Brexit in 2019 to painting himself as its greatest champion, while vowing to bring "British power to the British people".
British opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer has told Business leaders the UK needs to end its "dependency" on immigrant labour.
Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, the Labour Party leader said businesses should instead focus on "investing more in training up workers who are already here".
"Our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency," Starmer said. "Let me tell you, the days when low pay and cheap labour are part of the British way on growth must end."
But he refused to commit a future Labour government to bringing down immigration numbers, currently soaring thanks to the trafficking of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants across the English Channel.
If "one of the big drivers is skills failure, then I think we need to address the skills issue rather than just talk about arbitrary numbers," Starmer said.
Those comments were a far cry from Starmer's call at the September 2019 Labour conference — when he was shadow Brexit secretary — for the 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union (EU) to be re-run, with Labour campaigning to Remain.
The party resolution adopted in a vote following his conference speech was blamed for the landslide Tory victory in the snap general election three months later.
Starmer's "10 pledges" in the 2020 party leadership election — since largely abandoned — also included "full voting rights for EU nationals," to "defend free movement as we leave the EU," and "an immigration system based on compassion and dignity."
But since becoming leader, Starmer has attempted to reinvent himself as a champion of Brexit. Speaking in front of a Union Jack backdrop at this year's Labour conference, he vowed to bring "British power to the British people".
On Monday, CBI Director Tony Danker called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Conservative government to relax rules for immigration from the European Union (EU).
"People are arguing against immigration — but it's the only thing that has increased our growth potential since March," Danker said.
But he also rejected the idea of 'Swiss-style' close regulatory alignment with the EU — mooted in a Sunday newspaper report — and said the much-criticised Northern Ireland Protocol was the obstacle to realising opportunities of Brexit.
Sunak dismissed the idea in his own speech to the CBI conference later that morning, saying: "under my leadership the UK will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws."