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19 April 2018

Bloomberg: Labour could bend on immigration to keep banks in Britain after Brexit

Britain’s opposition Labour Party would be willing to set aside voter demands for an immigration clampdown in order to secure a Brexit deal that keeps financial services companies in London.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said a Labour government would show “flexibility” on the issue of freedom of movement and would see that as the price of maintaining good access to the European Union’s single market. The EU says there can be no single market access without free movement, and the U.K. government has said taking back control of immigration is a red line in the negotiations.

McDonnell -- a lifelong anti-capitalist -- was speaking as part of his effort to reassure businesses, especially in the finance sector, about the prospect of a government led by his longtime ally Jeremy Corbyn. Labour is better positioned than Theresa May’s Conservative government to secure a “compromise” Brexit deal that would “secure” that access for financial services, he said in an interview at Bloomberg’s London office on Thursday. [...]

McDonnell pitched Labour as the party to rescue banks from the potential damage of trade barriers. “If they’re thinking of leaving London because of Brexit, think again,” he said. “We think when we get into government -- and that could be any day -- we think we can get a deal which will secure their future, both in terms of access for financial services to the rest of Europe, but also in the strength of our economy for the future.” [...]

Labour is committed to try to seek a customs union with the EU, which Brussels is also keen on, McDonnell said. “When we’ve raised that we want as close proximity as we possibly can, it’s been well received, and we think we could get a deal,” he said.

EU officials have complained that the British government hasn’t given enough detail on what it wants from its future relationship with the bloc, and described what they’ve heard so far as unacceptable cherry-picking of some parts of EU membership. [...]

“I think there’ll be flexibility around freedom of movement. We accept that. From both sides,” he said, declining to give details on what Labour was prepared to offer. “Other countries have elements of flexibility around freedom of movement that I don’t think we’ve even explored.”

Full article on Bloomberg

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