21:53 GMT22 October 2020
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    British Labour Party leader David Corbyn - already facing a split within his party over who has a mandate to represent the party - has run into fresh anger after defending immigration despite the subject being the single biggest cause of people voting to leave the European Union.

    Corbyn's handling of the campaign in the runup to the referendum on Britain's membership of the EU, June 23, came in for severe criticism from within his own party for being lacklustre. Corbyn has long been euroskeptic, while his party policy was to remain, so while he nominally led the campaign to remain, many felt his lead was not strong enough. 

    Immigration was the single most important issue in the referendum. Among Labour supporters, there was a backlash against foreign workers entering the UK and taking British jobs, working for less money or benefiting from supported by benefits, giving them an advantage over domestic workers.

    However, in an interview ahead of his first speech to his party's annual conference since being reelected as party leader, Corbyn refused to say he would put a cap on immigration, defending migrant workers and angering many party members.

    "Migrants that have come to this country make an enormous contribution to it. Our conference understands that and Tom Watson put that case very well about the work that migrants have done in the NHS and education and other industries documents to the public is not binding and can be refused by the institutions," he told the BBC.

    ​"I also understand that there are many industries and jobs that have done well from migrant labour and even depend on it. They are concerned that they won't be able to have short-term migrant labour coming into Britain to help them," he said.

    High-Profile Resignation

    However, his comments drew criticism from his own shadow interior minister Andy Burnham — who stood against Corbyn for the leadership in 2015 — who let journalists know, ahead of his conference speech:

    "Labour must face up fully to this fact: millions of our lifelong supporters voted to leave the EU and voted for change on immigration."

    Burnham announced at the conference he would be quitting the shadow cabinet in another high-profile blow to Corbyn and rumors spread that his communications chief Seamus Milne is set to leave Corbyn's team by the end of this week, although this was quickly denied. 

    Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary was another critic of Corbyn, telling the BBC:

    "We have to have controls on immigration, that's quite clear. You have to know who is coming in to your country and who is leaving your country."

    Corbyn may have been reelected with a higher share of the vote than he was in 2015, but his parliamentary Labour party — most of whom say they have a mandate from the last general election when they voted on center-ground issues — remain at odds with him over many issues, immigration now being the latest.

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    Tags:
    socialism, Brexit, leadership, politics, British Labour Party, European Union, Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Burnham, Great Britain, United Kingdom
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