Keir Starmer backtracks on Labour pledge to return to EU free movement

The Labour leader said his previous commitment to reinstating free movement within the EU was "not going to be realistic"

Keir Starmer has dropped his previous commitment to ensuring a Labour government would fight for freedom of movement within the European Union, calling the pledge “unrealistic”.

The Labour leader had previously assured that he would “defend free movement as we leave the EU” and that he would work to reintroduce the policy if elected Prime Minister.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning (January 10), however, Starmer said: “I don’t think there’s an argument for reopening those aspects of the treaty.


“We have a treaty, it’s a thin treaty, it’s not what was promised. But I’m very conscious of the fact that everything I’m doing, everything the Labour Party is doing is focused on winning an election in 2024.

“If we win that election and a Labour government comes in, we will inherit that treaty and the British people will expect us to make it work, and the EU27 will expect us to make it work.”

Starmer told Marr that “the last thing anybody wants including the EU is to start again from scratch with this treaty”.

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer. Credit: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

When the host questioned Starmer over his original commitment to the policy, the Labour leader said: “We’ve negotiated a treaty, that now is the basis of our relationship with the EU. We didn’t know what that was until we saw what it was before Christmas.”

Starmer added: “I don’t think there’s a case for rejoining the EU, I’ve said that before. But pretending to the British public that somehow after four years of negotiation that the treaty that’s just being secured is going to be up for grabs, that is not going to be realistic.”


The UK officially left the EU, along with the single market and customs union, on January 1 this year, marking the end of free movement for UK citizens.

The UK’s departure from the EU and its corollary procedural changes are already majorly impacting musicians’ touring prospects for 2021 and beyond.

Yesterday (January 9) it was reported that the UK government allegedly rejected a deal from the EU that would allow musicians to enter countries that belong to the union without a visa.

Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU saw workers from some professions allowed to travel on business without the need to apply for a visa. However, musicians were not covered in the deal, adding huge costs to tours of the continent.

Artists have expressed their anger and disappointment with the news on social media, with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke called the government “spineless fucks” over the decision, and Portishead‘s Geoff Barrow launched the hashtag “BorisKilledMusic”.