LABOUR have been branded “just as bad as the Tories on Brexit” after it was reported Keir Starmer is set to rule out a return to freedom of movement with Europe.

According to The Times, the Labour leader will shut down any talk of forging closer links with the EU if his party wins the next General Election.

In 2020, Starmer vowed to “defend free movement as we leave the EU”. But insiders say he will now quash any suggestions of a return to the system which allowed EU citizens to live and work in the UK, and vice-versa. “Keir recognises that it’s time to put a line in the sand and stop any speculation about what our position on immigration might be,” a Labour source told The Times.

The SNP say it shows Labour are “just as bad as the Tories on Brexit” as the economic reality of the divorce becomes clear.

The party’s shadow chancellor, Alison Thewliss, said: "At a time when Brexit is turbocharging the cost of living crisis and costing Scotland's economy billions of pounds, it beggars belief that Keir Starmer would choose to borrow even more damaging hard Brexit policies from Boris Johnson.

"Free movement, alongside the wider benefits of EU membership, are essential to growing Scotland's economy and boosting jobs and incomes. It is also key to strengthening our public services – including the NHS, which has suffered as a result of Tory and Labour Brexit policies.”

The National: SNP MP Alison Thewliss has condemned the Labour leadership SNP MP Alison Thewliss has condemned the Labour leadership

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According to forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, UK productivity and gross domestic product will decline by 4% as a result of Brexit, equating to roughly £100 billion a year in lost output and a £40bn decline in annual Treasury revenues.

The UK is also on track to have the lowest growth next year of any G20 nation, with the exception of Russia, according to the OECD.

Thewliss added: "The evidence is clear that Brexit has squeezed living standards, cost the UK hundreds of billions in lost trade, and harmed our NHS – with increased costs and staffing shortages. The UK is lagging behind other countries as a result of Brexit.

"Scotland deserves better than out-of-touch Westminster parties competing to be the most hardline on Brexit. It is economic sabotage – and the only way to keep Scotland safe is to become an independent country.”

Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer said: “Freedom of movement is one of the EU’s greatest achievements, allowing people to live, work or study across the continent. It is heart-breaking that Brexit stole that opportunity from Scotland, despite our overwhelming vote to Remain.

"Keir Starmer may have lied his way to the leadership of the British Labour party, but Scotland shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of his attempts to make his party indistinguishable from the Tories. It is clear that no change in UK Government will bring these European rights back to us, only independence can do that.”

Starmer’s move is understood to be an appeal to Brexiteer Labour voters, with around a third of the party’s base in 2017 backing Leave.

However, many Labour backers are pushing for closer ties with the EU. The Labour Campaign for Free Movement is calling for the reinstatement of open borders with the bloc in a motion at the party’s annual conference which is backed by left-wing activist group Momentum. And last week it was reported that frontbench MP Anna McMorrin had told a meeting: “I hope eventually we will get back into the single market and the customs union and who knows in the future.”

Scottish Labour vowed in their 2021 manifesto to build a “close new relationship with the EU”. The party has been asked to comment on Starmer’s reported plan.