Fighting for EU nationals and fighting against a hard Brexit

I still remember just how devastated I felt on June 24th last year, the day after the UK had voted to leave the EU.

Many of us had campaigned so very hard in the months leading up to the referendum. I campaigned in every ward in Lewisham, alongside hundreds of local members, making the positive case for remaining in the EU. I remember campaigning in New Cross and Telegraph Hill on polling day, getting out the Remain vote.

But despite the result, based on lies peddled by the worst of our press, I vowed to fight on.

In the aftermath of the result, the Tory Government is seeking to push through a devastating hard Brexit, including pulling out of both the Customs Union and the Single Market. This would put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. It would threaten the rights at work which we take for granted. It will make reversing austerity and the cuts so much more difficult as the economy slows towards recession. It has to be stopped. Immigration was one of the big issues in the referendum. The way UKIP and Tory ‘leavers’  whipped up division and hatred was disgraceful. But we know the truth – it is not EU migrants who are to blame for poverty pay – it is austerity and exploitative employers.

We live in one of the most diverse communities in the country. My parents moved to London from Jamaica in the 1960s to build a better life for themselves and their family. Like migrants before them and migrants after them, they made the UK their home, they integrated into our community, they contributed to our society. As Londoners we take pride in that.

I believe that we should stand up for our place in the Single Market, on which hundreds of thousands of jobs, and our rights at work, depend. I believe we should stand up for free movement. And I believe we should stand up to the Tories, and those who seek to divide us by scapegoating migrants. So I’ve signed the Labour Campaign for Free Movement statement – and you can do so here.

Thousands of EU nationals call Lewisham their home. If I were Mayor, I would stand up for their rights, and demand that they be given full and unconditional rights to remain in the UK.

The Labour Party’s recent demand for a longer transitional period and continued membership of the Customs Union and Single Market is a welcome clarification but it is not enough.

The EU referendum was one of the defining issues of our time. Where we go from here will have important consequences for our community. Seventy per cent of Lewisham residents voted Remain, and our local members campaigned hard for Remain.

Labour Conference must demand adherence to Keir Starmer’s six tests and, if they cannot be met, a vote on the final deal must be called. With sixteen year olds having a vote – it is their future too.

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