My speech on the result of the EU referendum

The vote on Thursday to leave the European Union is a historic decision. Our country has been a member for 43 years -half the people of this country cannot remember ever not being a member of the European Union.
We are in a new world and now there will be at least two years of discussions and negotiations before we are no longer members.

We must make sure that those negotiations deliver the protections our country needs, working rights and the environments.

We cannot let the Tories run riot over our hard fought for environmental protection – I have no doubt that given the chance they would replace all our environmental safeguards with a Tory polluters’ charter.

Not only that; but yesterday the Prime Minister resigned too.

So this has been a remarkable couple of days, by any reckoning.

When I was elected Labour Leader nine months ago it was first of all on the basis of opposition to austerity, secondly, in support of a more democratic politics and, thirdly, for a foreign policy based on human rights and peace.

Outside of the European Union we will now need to forge new international relationships and alliances.

I spent much of Thursday speaking to leaders of socialist and labour parties across Europe on just those three points because, remain or leave I knew many people felt politics wasn’t working for them and we had to have renewed efforts to change that.

Today, it is important that we learn from what has taken place in the past few days, if we are to draw the right conclusions and represent the people we were elected to serve more effectively.

Across many parts of Britain there is a feeling of powerlessness.

In communities that have effectively been abandoned where the high skill unionised jobs were lost in the 1980s or 1990s and have not been replaced.

Where people feel left behind in lower paid and less secure jobs.

Where the deregulation of the labour market combined with a lack of investment has hit hardest.

It is in many of these communities – former industrial heartlands – that people voted for Brexit.

They have taken the full force of austerity and government economic failure local services have been hit hardest there, while the richest got tax breaks.

The Tories’ choice; to make deprived communities pay for a crisis not of their making has opened the door to a nastier, more divisive politics.

That has sought to blame immigrants, not government, governments that let industry go to the wall that have failed to invest, that have deregulated the labour market and have turned a deaf ear to those communities left behind.

I want to be clear – the chronic housing crisis across our country is the direct result of this government’s politics – flogging off public housing whilst failing to build homes for all.

We need laws that provide security in the housing sector.

And so the European referendum revealed a divided Britain; London and Scotland voting for remain, Wales and every other English region voting to leave.

But there is another divide; between the thriving, often multicultural, cities that were more likely to vote remain and often post-industrial, smaller urban areas that voted to leave.

Yesterday people awoke to turmoil in the markets and the pound sliding.

Before the referendum George Osborne threatened an emergency budget if people voted to Leave. He threatened to hike their taxes and cut public services.

Labour will not allow that to happen, that would damage our economy still further and deepen the divisions in our country.

As our shadow chancellor John McDonnell said yesterday “the Government must now take steps to stabilise the economy, to protect jobs, pensions and wages.”

“Labour will not allow any instability to be paid for … by the working people of this country”


But we cannot duck the issue of immigration, instead we need to start an honest and rational debate.

We cannot talk about immigration as something separate from its social and economic context – both for communities that are here and those that arrive.

It’s clear from the conversations I and many others had on streets around the country in recent weeks that immigration is a crucial issue for a lot of people and played a central role in the EU referendum campaign.

Opinion polls have told us for many years that immigration is one of the biggest issues for people. In fact it has not dropped out of the top five issues for voters since 2011.

Politicians are often accused of being afraid about talking about immigration. I am certainly not.

I believe migration has enriched our country, our culture and our communities. But I also understand that rapid changes to communities can bring tensions and strains on services.

During the referendum campaign I talked about the pressures that fast-moving changes in population can put on public services.

That’s why Labour backed restoring the Migration Impact Fund to relieve pressure on local services such as schools, GPs surgeries and housing in areas of high migration. That fund was established by Gordon Brown in 2008 but was abolished by David Cameron in 2010.

We recognised that there can be tensions in the jobs market too. So we proposed amendments to employment rights here in Britain, such as banning zero hours contracts, and across Europe, such as closing the loophole in the Posting of Workers Directive which allows companies to move employees from one country to another, undermining local pay agreements or even minimum wages.

We proposed those changes to stop wages being undercut and to stop all workers being exploited.

We have to address the needs of people and places that have been left behind building an economic strategy that works for all in all parts of the country I know Seema Malhotra and John McDonnell are doing just that.

And we have to move beyond the irresponsible debate that we sometimes have that makes people afraid or that accuses people of being Little Englanders or racists just for raising the issue.

It is clear from the vote on Thursday and from the people I have spoken to across Britain that there was a backlash against the free movement of people across the 28 nations in the European Union.

But there was no single offer from the Leave side some of them wanted to leave but keep the single market and free movement, others not.

The fact is there was no manifesto for what a post-referendum UK migration policy looks like. Or any of the other essential pieces of the post-Brexit jigsaw either, for that matter.

Our policies on trade, the economy, and migration will change in light of the referendum vote, but that cannot be left to the likes of Johnson, Farage and Gove.

Labour will fight to ensure our agenda is at the heart of the negotiations over our withdrawal from the European Union that lie ahead including the freedom to shape our economy to work for all and maintain the social and employment protections that benefit all and that whoever leads the government is intensively held to democratic account throughout that process.


The whole country must come together in the wake of what became a divisive referendum campaign discuss the consequences calmly and rationally and I want Labour to lead that debate.

Migration will be part of it and that will be led by our shadow home secretary Andy Burnham and our shadow immigration minister Keir Starmer as they travel around Britain.

But we need to talk about much, much more.

The economy – skills and training, investment in industry and communities, employment and trade union rights and our trade with Europe and the rest of the world.

Our country must play a positive role in the International community – Labour will fight to protect human rights here in the UK.

We will not allow this government to ride rough shod over the protections every person living in this country has from the European Convention.

Labour is an international party, we will hold the government to account on its responsibilities through DIFID to support our aid programme and development work.


We were elected as Labour, and I was elected Leader to redistribute power and wealth in this country.

Inequality is the issue of our times and we must face it and act decisively against it.

We must talk about immigration but we will never pander to prejudice.

So, as we begin, in the coming weeks and months to negotiate – in all its complexity – our exit from the European Union we must also debate the Britain we want that will be shaped by how that exit takes place.

A Britain with an economy that provides good jobs in all parts of the country because there is a government that invests in communities in industry and in its people.

That is a Britain in which no community and no one is left behind.

That is the Labour vision.

Thank you.