Jeremy Corbyn has flip-flopped on the suggestion he would toughen up his stance on immigration.
In a speech on Tuesday afternoon in Peterborough, the Labour leader said the Brexit vote revealed voters had “deep concerns about unregulated migration from the EU”.
“Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle,” Corbyn said.
However he added: “But I don’t want that to be misinterpreted, nor do we rule it out.”
The initial line, released overnight, did not include the phrase “nor do we rule it out”.
It led many to conclude he had decided to relax his previous staunch commitment to the principle of free movement.
Corbyn spent much of today, beginning with an early morning interview on ITV, walking back the suggestion.
And he told the BBC that he did not think immigration was too high.
Corbyn said Labour wanted to tackle the “exploitation” of workers by companies which drove down wages - which would result in reduced immigration even if it was not the goal.
With the Brexit negotiations set to begin in weeks, European leaders have said accepting the free movement of people is likely to be a condition of the UK having access to the single market.
Theresa May has hinted she will back a so-called hard Brexit by making controlling immigration her priority in the Brexit talks.
In his speech, which was billed as a mayor reboot of his leadership as a leftwing populist, Corbyn said the UK “cannot afford to lose full access to the European markets on which so many British businesses and jobs depend”.
“Unlike the Tories, Labour will not offer false promises on immigration targets or sow division by scapegoating migrants because we know where that leads.
“The worrying rise in race hate crime and division we have seen in recent months and how the issue of immigration can be used as a proxy to abuse or intimidate minority communities.
“When it comes to border controls, we are proud to say we will meet our international obligations to refugees fleeing wars and persecution.
“To those EU citizens who are already here, we will guarantee your rights. And we continue to welcome international students who come to study in this country.
“Changes to the way migration rules operate from the EU will be part of the negotiations.
“Labour supports fair rules and the reasonable management of migration as part of the post-Brexit relationship with the EU, while putting jobs and living standards first in the negotiations.
“At the same time, taking action against undercutting of pay and conditions, closing down cheap labour loopholes, banning exclusive advertising of jobs abroad and strengthening workplace protections would have the effect of reducing numbers of EU migrant workers in the most deregulated sectors, regardless of the final Brexit deal.”
It has been reported Corbyn’s team have been taking inspiration from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in their attempt to strike a more populist tone.
This morning evidence of the approach came as Corbyn suggested he would impose a cap on the maximum wage people could earn in order to tackle inequality.