Immigrants should not be held to blame for Britain’s economic difficulties and must stay in the country in the wake of Brexit, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.
Addressing an audience at Birmingham City Council House, Mr Corbyn said it was “vitally important” to protect Britain’s diversity following the vote to leave the EU.
Speaking at an event organised by the Runnymede Trust, Mr Corbyn said the the message that European nationals should stay “must be heard loud and clear”.
“In the wake of the Brexit decision, it is vitally important that we value, celebrate and protect our diverse society,” he said.
“And that includes the three million European nationals who live and work here, who have made their lives and family and friends here and are so connected to so many millions of us. We want them to stay in this country.
“This is the central bedrock of the values of Labour and that message must be heard loud and clear.”
Mr Corbyn said that in “volatile times” amid concerns over the future of the country there was a tendency to look for people to blame.
But he said: “Syrian refugees did not trade in credit default swaps and crash the economy in 2008. Eastern European builders and technicians did not slash funding for children’s centres and libraries.”
He added: “What we need is leadership that does not stoop to preying on those anxieties, blaming people who look differently, talk a different language or dress differently, for the mess that we’re in.”
The Labour leader also accused the Conservatives of pursuing an agenda favouring the elite at the expense of the majority – particularly those in Asian and black communities.
“It’s indefensible that in Britain today, if you’re black or Asian you are more likely to be living in poverty than if you’re white,” he said.
“Or that young black men have experienced the worst long-term employment and economic outcomes in many generations.”
Mr Corbyn welcomed moves to combat hate crime in the UK, but said: “Any move to tackle such heinous crimes head on would be laudable if it didn’t come from a Government which has actively stoked the fires of frenzied scaremongering as Europe faces its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.”