EU citizens would have to compete on a level playing field with migrants from other countries after Brexit under a future Labour government, Diane Abbott has suggested.
The shadow home secretary unveiled a plan to create a reformed immigration system after Britain leaves the EU, saying “people should be treated equally and fairly”.
Non-EU citizens, including those from Commonwealth nations, are treated as “second-class migrants” under the current system. she said in a keynote address in London.
She said: “Once trade deals have been struck and established there will be no unequal treatment based on which countries people are coming from.
“A fully qualified doctor from Pakistan will be treated just like a fully qualified doctor from Poland, and vice versa.
“The same is true of how we will allocate work visas, and the rights that will be attached to them.”
Ms Abbott attacked Government aims to bring net immigration below 100,000 a year by insisting economic needs must guide policy, not “meaningless and arbitrary targets”.
She said a reformed immigration system is needed to put prosperity and jobs first.
Ms Abbott called for a more flexible work visa scheme to ensure the UK attracts people with key skills from across the globe.
She said: “Sadly at the current time we have a class system for migrants.
“Commonwealth migrants and other non-EU migrants are treated in a way that is tantamount to making them second-class migrants.
“They struggle to bring partners or spouses here. They have to meet minimum income targets. They can lose their right to residency simply by travelling home for family reasons.
“It’s not fair, it’s not humane, it’s not reasonable.
“Labour will end the established system of first and second-class migrants. And we will do so, not by treating EU migrants as appallingly as Commonwealth and other non-EU migrants have been treated for a long time. We will end the first and second-class system by treating everyone fairly.”
Ms Abbott said that after Brexit EU citizens already in the UK should retain the rights they already enjoy.
She attacked Government policy for using Europeans as “bargaining chips”, adding: “Anyone who arrived here under the freedom of movement provisions up to our exit from Brexit must continue to be accorded those same rights going forward.
“We also demand the same for our citizens in the EU. This is a reciprocal and an equal relationship.”