Sunak’s plan to stop the boats ‘beginning to work’

Johnny Mercer, the veterans’ minister, said that ‘the things we’re doing are beginning to work’
Johnny Mercer, the veterans’ minister, said that ‘the things we’re doing are beginning to work’ - BBC

Rishi Sunak’s plan to stop the boats is “beginning to work”, a Cabinet minister has claimed in the wake of the Government unveiling its new Rwanda Bill.

Johnny Mercer, the veterans’ minister, admitted measures already taken to combat illegal Channel crossings had not been “everything we wanted”.

However, he pointed to a year-on-year reduction of almost one third in the number of small boat arrivals and insisted Mr Sunak’s new legislation would serve its intended purpose.

Speaking on the BBC’s Question Time on Thursday night, he said: “We’ve resettled 25,000 people from Afghanistan now and people are working incredibly hard every day to show the compassion that we need in this country towards these people. That is not the same as open borders … This is an entirely separate issue.”

Mr Mercer also pointed to a 90 per cent decrease in the amount of illegal migrants arriving from Albania after the Government signed a returns agreement with the country last year.

He added: “You say it’s not working, right, but in other countries we’ve seen a massive increase in the summer, in Italy and places like that, up to 80 per cent. In this country, small boats have gone down 30 per cent.

“Is it everything? No. Is it everything we wanted? No. But it’s a start, and the things we’re doing are beginning to work.”

Measures taken by previous governments include a deal negotiated by Theresa May with Emmanuel Macron, the French president, to pay the French government an extra £44.5 million for border security in the 2018 Sandhurst Treaty. The UK is planning to send France another £471.6 million to stop the boats between now and 2026.

On Friday morning, Tom Pursglove, the minister for legal migration, claimed the Rwanda programme would deliver value for money after the Telegraph revealed Britain has given Rwanda an extra £100 million this year before the deportation of any asylum seekers.

“When you consider that we are unacceptably spending £8 million a day in the asylum system at the moment, it is a key part of our strategy to bring those costs down,” Mr Pursglove told Sky News.

“So I think this is the right investment to make that will help us to achieve those objectives of saving lives at sea, stopping people drowning in the Channel, as well as getting those costs under control in a way that I think taxpayers across the country would all want to see.”

He also said Rishi Sunak would make a success of the partnership and predicted this would help him lead the Conservatives to victory at the next election, amid speculation about his political future.

“I think colleagues back the Prime Minister in taking action on this issue,” Mr Pursglove said. “I think colleagues will support the passage of this legislation. We have a unity of purpose about stopping the boats.

“I think that he will lead us into this election, I think we will win this general election and I think he is showing the leadership that the country wants to see on this really important issue.”

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