Liz Truss today vows to implement a hard line on immigration if she wins the keys to No 10 – including extending the scheme under which migrants who cross the Channel in small boats can be sent to Rwanda.
The Foreign Secretary uses an interview with The Mail on Sunday to try to cement her early lead over Rishi Sunak by promising to increase frontline border staff by 20 per cent, and by striking Rwanda-style deals with more countries.
Her pledges come as Mr Sunak – who has denied claims he tried to block the controversial policy while in Cabinet –yesterday set out his own ten-point plan to tackle immigration, which he promised would be one of ‘five major emergency responses’ he would enact during his first 100 days as Prime Minister.
Ms Truss says: ‘The Rwanda policy is the right policy. I’m determined to see it through to full implementation, as well as exploring other countries that we can work on similar partnerships with. It’s the right thing to do.
‘I’m also determined to make sure we have the right level of forces at our border. I’m going to increase the Border Force to make sure that we have the proper protection in place directly at the border.’
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss promised to be tough on immigration if she wins the Conservative leadership candidate
Ms Truss said that she would organise more Rwanda-style deals to control immigration (pictured: Migrants at Gatwick detention centre before the halted flight to Rwanda)
Ms Truss also said she would introduce a strengthened Bill of Rights to give a ‘sound legal basis’ to address illegal immigration
The clash came as:
- Mr Sunak denounced Ms Truss’s tax cuts as ‘immoral’ and railed against the ‘forces that be’ who are trying to install her in Downing Street in an apparent dig at Boris Johnson loyalists;
- The former Chancellor used a speech in Margaret Thatcher’s hometown of Grantham to denounce the Foreign Secretary’s plans to reverse his tax increases. But allies of Ms Truss said it was ‘daft’ to argue there was no headroom for tax cuts;
- An MoS poll of Tory voters put Mr Johnson top of the ‘Best Prime Minister’ rankings, followed by Ms Truss in second place and Mr Sunak in third;
- The outgoing Prime Minister was pictured in fatigues and handling an anti-tank missile launcher during a trip to an Army base in Mr Sunak’s North Yorkshire constituency – as the MoS learned new details of the ‘cold war’ between Mr Johnson and his former Chancellor. The pair have not spoken since Mr Sunak’s resignation on July 5, and ‘blanked’ each other when they recently passed in the Commons;
- Tory donor John Caudwell backed Ms Truss’s economic policies.
Truss told Mail on Sunday that if she defeats former chancellor Rishi Sunak, she will increase border force staff levels from 9,000 to 10,800.(Pictured: A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent)
In today’s interview, Ms Truss also takes aim at former No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings, who is supporting Mr Sunak, distances herself from comparisons with Baroness Thatcher and reveals her love of Bruce Springsteen and Honest Burgers.
Her intervention over immigration came after the initial stages of the Tory leadership campaign were dominated by rows over tax policy, with Ms Truss promising to axe Mr Sunak’s National Insurance rise to stimulate growth. The Foreign Secretary says that if she beats her rival in the ballot of party members on September 5 she will increase frontline Border Force staff from 9,000 to 10,800.
Ms Truss will also introduce a strengthened Bill of Rights to give a ‘sound legal basis’ to address illegal immigration.
Liz Truss has said she will extend the controversial Rwanda asylum scheme, in a move to firm up support among Tory party voters in the race to succeed Boris Johnson
Ms Truss tells the MoS: ‘I’m determined to end the appalling people trafficking we’re seeing. I make sure things get done, and I will be working with my colleagues to deliver this as an absolute priority.
‘I understand it’s a priority for people and we need to make sure our immigration system is fair, and this illegal immigration that we’re seeing across the Channel is both unfair and incredibly dangerous, and it is one of my priorities to make sure it is sorted.’ She adds: ‘We need to make sure that the British Bill of Rights fully delivers on giving the UK Government the powers and UK Parliament the sovereignty to be able to deliver the policy in full. That’s very important for me.
‘Britain’s borders will be protected under my leadership and I will do what it takes to make the Rwanda deal fully implemented and also look to other arrangements with other countries.’
Mr Sunak’s plan includes new laws to tighten the definition of who qualifies for asylum, the introduction of an annual cap set by Parliament on the number of refugees the UK accepts and withholding aid from countries that fail to co-operate over the return of migrants.
The former Chancellor has also promised to hold ‘the French to account with clear targets for stopping boats’ while ending the ‘farce’ of using hotels to house migrants. Mr Sunak said: ‘Our immigration system is broken and we have to be honest about that.
‘Whether you believe that migration should be high or low, we can all agree that it should be legal and controlled.
‘Right now the system is chaotic, with law-abiding citizens seeing boats full of illegal immigrants coming from the safe country of France, with our sailors and coastguards seemingly powerless to stop them. It must stop and if I am Prime Minister I will stop it.’
The Foreign Secretary suggested that as Prime Minister she would extend the Rwanda policy, despite it currently being in legal limbo
The Rwandan Government has conceded that it currently only has the capacity to take 200 migrants from the UK, although spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said officials would be able to ‘scale up quickly’ and were ready to ‘take as many as the UK is willing to send’.
Britain has paid £120 million up front to Rwanda as part of the deal and could be liable for the cash even if the policy is ruled unlawful in a judicial review before the High Court in September.
Officials also confirmed migrants were free to leave Rwanda once they had arrived and could attempt new journeys back to the UK.
More than 10,000 migrants have arrived in the UK in small boats since the deal was signed in mid-April. In total, more than 15,000 have crossed the Channel this year, almost double the number that had arrived by this time last year.
Last week it emerged in a report by David Neal, the chief borders inspector, that Channel migrants who triggered alerts on security databases have been allowed to vanish after arriving in the UK.
Others were found to have arrived with guns or other weapons.
The Home Office sat on Mr Neal’s findings for five months until publishing them last week.
The report came a month after the first scheduled flight to Rwanda was blocked from departing after an 11th-hour ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
Ms Truss adds: ‘In all of the areas that I’ve had direct responsibility for, whether it’s putting the toughest sanctions regime on Russia, whether it’s dealing with the issues in Northern Ireland and putting the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill to Parliament, whether it’s the trade deals I’ve negotiated, I’m somebody who gets things done and I’m prepared to take on the Whitehall orthodoxy, I’m prepared to take on the naysayers and the doubters around the country, and that is what I will absolutely do in this case because it is a priority to stop the appalling abuse that’s taking place in the Channel.’