Europe News

UK opposition leader suggests setting a maximum wage level...only to water down plans a few hours later

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn listens to speakers on the first day of the Labour Party Conference the Exhibition Centre Liverpool on September 25, 2016 in Liverpool, England.
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The left-wing leader of the U.K.'s main opposition party started Tuesday calling for a law imposing a maximum upper limit on earnings... only to mothball the suggestion a few hours later.

In a BBC interview early Tuesday morning, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said a limit on salaries is needed to stop Britain becoming a "grossly unequal, bargain basement economy".

Corbyn didn't give a specific figure but later told Sky News later that the figure would be "somewhat higher" than his own £138,000 ($167,628) salary.

In the Sky interview, he added his dismay at "telephone-number" salaries being paid to those doing well. And he highlighted soccer players and top business figures as examples of excessive pay.

"I think, certainly, the salaries that are paid to some footballers are simply ridiculous. I think some of the salaries paid to very high-earning top executives of companies are utterly ridiculous."

The average FTSE100 chief executive is paid £5.5 million a year, according to the independent think tank High Pay Center. And a study carried out for The Daily Mail in 2016 found the average annual salary for a player in the U.K. soccer's Premier League was £2.29 million.

Former Corbyn adviser and Bank of England MPC member Danny Blanchflower has slammed the proposal as "idiotic".

Posting on the social media account Twitter, Blanchflower said if he was still an adviser "I would have told him it is a totally unworkable idea".

Indeed, by the afternoon in London, Corbyn's team was busy briefing reporters that the cap was one of several ideas, according to the Financial Times. These included government recognition for a company's reasonable pay levels and a higher rate of income tax, the FT reported.

Immigration speech

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses an audience at the People's History Museum and sets out reasons why Labour is voting remain, in the EU referendum.
Christopher Furlong | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The maximum wage debate overshadowed a speech given Tuesday from Jeremy Corbyn in which he said his party was not wedded to free movement and that the U.K. can be better off outside of Europe.

The speech, excerpts of which have been pre-released in several newspapers, will attempt to articulate Labour's position on immigration.

"Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle. But nor can we afford to lose full access to the European single market on which so many British businesses and jobs depend. Changes to the way migration rules operate from the EU will be part of the negotiations," he will say.

"Labour supports fair rules and reasonably managed migration as part of the post-Brexit relationship with the EU."