Alison McGovern said Labour figures arguing tougher controls were now inevitable were wrong to believe “northern voters fear immigrants, or hate immigration”.
“We are told that the Tory party is divided ideologically, the left and the right, on Europe and the Labour Party is divided geographically,” she told a fringe meeting at Labour’s conference.
“That somehow our southern voters are very pro-immigration and they think it’s fine, whereas up in the grim, northern wastelands we can’t stand foreigners. Well, that is a lie.
“I won’t be told that northern voters fear immigrants or hate immigration and somehow the Labour Party has no choice.”
The comments came as the Brighton conference’s opening day threatened to descend into a battle between the Labour wing fighting to stay in the EU single market and the section opposed.
Corbyn-backing Momentum delegates have been accused of trying to block a conference debate on Brexit and a proposed pro-single market motion.
Thirty Labour MPs have signed an open letter calling for the party to support permanent single market membership – which, the EU says, would mean accepting free movement of people.
Ms McGovern, a Merseyside MP, told the Labour Movement for Europe conference fringe event it was not freedom of movement that had led to pressure on wages for the low-paid.
Labour MP and pro-single market campaigner Alison McGovern
“It is an easy excuse to blame migrants and to blame freedom of movement when actually it’s the Tories and exploitative employers that are to blame,” she added.
Meanwhile, Clive Lewis, a former key Corbyn ally, said opposition to freedom of movement within the EU is being driven by racism.
Appearing on Sky News, he clashed with fellow Labour backbencher Caroline Flint who said people did not want…