PMQs: Sunak hits out at Starmer over immigration
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The Prime Minister said he left talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Egypt with “renewed confidence and optimism” about ending Channel crossings.
He told the British people that “together with our European partners we can make a difference, grip this challenge of illegal migration and stop people coming illegally”.
Mr Sunak said there are a “range of things” European leaders “will action as quickly as we can”.
And Downing Street yesterday revealed a new deal with France is in “its final stages”, with Britain set to provide Paris with more drones and cash.
The Daily Express understands that Britain wants “overseers” in French control rooms to help smash people-smuggling gangs operating in Northern France and prevent more migrants from crossing the Channel.
The soaring number of migrants crossing the Channel has brought the asylum system to breaking point, with thousands of people crammed into the Manston processing centre in Kent – prompting fears ministers were breaking the law.
Mr Sunak said “there is an opportunity” for other European countries “to work closely” to end the migration crisis.
The Prime Minister, speaking after meeting the French President on the sidelines of the COP 27 conference in Egypt, said it “was great to meet president Macron to talk about not just tackling illegal migration but the range of other areas in which we want to cooperate closely with the French on.
“But also, let’s remember that this is an issue that affects many countries and I have been talking to other European leaders as well about our shared challenge in tackling illegal migration and I think there is an opportunity for us to work closely, not just with the French but with other countries as well.
“You will hear more details about that in the coming weeks as those conversations happen amongst all our teams.
“But I am actually leaving this with renewed confidence and optimism that working together with our European partners we can make a difference, grip this challenge of illegal migration and stop people coming illegally.
“I’ve been spending enormous amount of my own time on it. I’ve been talking to several European leaders about it today and there’s a range of things that we will action as quickly as we can to get a grip of this situation and reduce the amount of illegal migration that we’re seeing.”
Mr Sunak said he had spent an “enormous amount of my own time” scrambling to find solutions to the Channel migrant crisis, raising it with several European leaders at the climate change summit yesterday.
The Prime Minister met the new President of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, yesterday, where they discussed “tackling illegal migration and people smuggling gangs”.
Downing Street yesterday said Mr Sunak and Mr Macron “committed to continue working together with partners to address the issues in the Channel”.
Number 10 added: “The Prime Minister and President Macron spoke about the ongoing challenge of illegal migration, stressing the urgency of cracking down on criminal smuggling gangs.”
Mr Sunak added: “We all want this situation to resolve itself as quickly as possible. I also want to be honest with people that it is a complex issue.
“It is not one simple solution that is going to solve it overnight.
“There is a range of things we need to do. But what I want people to be reassured by is that I absolutely am determined to grip this.”
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick yesterday vowed to end the use of luxury hotel rooms for migrants and find large “decent but basic” detention facilities where asylum claims could be processed.
And Mr Jenrick said he and Home Secretary Suella Braverman will review the Human Rights Act and the Modern Slavery Act amid fears they are being exploited by Albanian migrants.
Officials say over 10,000 Albanians have arrived in the UK on small boats.
Mr Jenrick said: “The Home Secretary and I are going to review whether further changes are required and we start from the basic principle that treaties that the UK Government has entered into must work in the best interests of the British people.
“In sourcing accommodation for migrants, we should be guided by both our common desire for decency because those are our values, but also hard-headed common sense. And it is not right that migrants are put up in three or four-star hotels at exorbitant cost to the United Kingdom taxpayer.”
So far this year, almost 40,000 people have crossed the Channel in small boats.
Ministers are under intense pressure to end the crisis amid severe overcrowding at a former RAF base being used as an asylum processing centre.
Mr Sunak denied claims Home Secretary Suella Braverman had made the situation worse amid claims she failed to book enough hotel rooms.
He said: “The Home Secretary is actually at the moment making sure we reduce numbers at Manston and we’re making very good progress on that to return that operation to where we would all like to see it”, he added.
“But, in the long-term, to make sure we don’t have a situation like we saw at Manston happening again, we need to reduce the number of people coming here illegally.
“That’s going to require the Home Secretary and others to work constructively with partners around Europe, to stop people coming in the first place.
“There’s a range of things we need to do to make that a reality, that’s what the Home Secretary is focused on and that’s what I’m focused on as well.”
Ministers are under fresh pressure to seal a new deal with France after Paris pulled a previous agreement at the 11th hour.
President Macron was left furious after former Prime Minister Liz Truss said the jury is still out on whether the French leader was a “friend or foe”.
The Daily Express understands around 50 British officials would have been stationed in France to try to smash people-smuggling gangs.
The £50 million deal would also have included more cash for intelligence sharing and drones.
This newspaper has been told there was even a draft press release written up to announce the deal.
Sources fear the diplomatic blunder resulted in France demanding more cash.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I don’t know if they have finalised a specific deal on the small boats in that meeting.”
Talks on the specifics of a deal were taking place separately involving Home Office officials, rather than being dealt with by the two leaders, the spokesman indicated.
“A deal is being discussed and I think is in its final stages,” the spokesman said.
Talks on the specifics of a deal were taking place separately involving Home Office officials, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman indicated.
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