Immigration a key battleground as Labour to finalise election manifesto

The Labour manifesto that Jeremy Corbyn vowed would “knock your socks off” is to be finalised on Saturday amid pressure for him to make a clear commitment on immigration.

The leader, his shadow cabinet, trade unions, affiliated organisations and the national policy forum will be among those hammering out the final details in a central London location.

Immigration has re-emerged as a key General Election battleground, and will be among the discussions at Saturday’s clause V meeting.

Mr Corbyn has previously committed to a “fair immigration process” which could include looking at whether freedom of movement will continue in the event of the UK leaving the EU.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Corbyn faces a frontbench split, referring to claims that a draft version of Labour’s manifesto contains a commitment to freedom of movement.

The newspaper quoted a shadow cabinet source as saying: “If we maintain a close relationship with the single market then we are going to have to maintain freedom of movement. That’s a given.”

Meanwhile, The Independent reported that policies of extending free movement and giving foreign nationals the right to vote in all UK elections are expected to be watered down or scrapped.

Asked about the reports, a spokeswoman for Labour said: “We didn’t provide any guidance for them ahead of the manifesto and won’t be for others.”

With the meeting just hours away, the Liberal Democrats challenged Mr Corbyn to commit to preserving free movement.

Lib Dem shadow home secretary Christine Jardine said: “Jeremy Corbyn must make a cast-iron commitment in Labour’s manifesto to preserve free movement.

“Failure to do so would be a betrayal of future generations and of the millions of voters across the country who want their right to free movement defended.”

Earlier this week, Mr Corbyn accused the Tories of fabricating figures – after it was claimed immigration levels would “surge” under a Labour government.

The Conservatives had claimed net migration under Labour “could increase to 840,000 per year”, with Home Secretary Priti Patel saying “immigration would surge” after the party carried out analysis of its opposition’s supposed proposals for open borders.

So far Labour has announced a plan to create a publicly-owned broadband entity to deliver free full-fibre internet to the entire nation, as well as boosts to the minimum wage and the NHS.

But the full details of the manifesto are supposed to remain tightly-sealed until the formal unveiling on a date in future.

In a promise that will delight some and dismay others, Mr Corbyn has pledged to deliver “the most radical and exciting plan for real change the British public has even seen”.

Before detailing his free broadband plan in Lancaster on Friday, he said: “I will let you into a little secret, when that manifesto arrives next week, it is going to knock your socks off.”

Meanwhile, the number of candidates running in the election has been confirmed, and there are 275 Brexit Party candidates, despite Nigel Farage initially suggesting that his party would target every seat in Britain.

There was growing pressure on Mr Farage in the run-up to the close of nominations on Thursday to stand down Brexit Party candidates in all but a few dozen constituencies to avoid splitting the pro-Leave vote.

He had already said they would not contest the 317 seats which the Conservatives had won in the 2017 election, so it was expected that there would be around 300 candidates running for Mr Farage’s party.

The numbers were confirmed as Lord Falconer wrote to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and Director of Public Prosecutions calling for a probe into claims the Tories offered peerages to senior Brexit Party figures in a bid to get them to stand aside.

The senior peer said the “exceptionally serious allegations” should be investigated as a matter of urgency, and must be looked at by police in order to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the election.

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