Sunak Warns: Labour Will Open Borders, Leading to Record Migration


A Labour government in Britain would lead to open borders, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warns, a paradoxical approach to the election given that’s exactly what the Tories in power have already delivered.

The figures for 2022, which had already been revised up from 606,000 to 745,000 net migrant arrivals in a recounting in Autumn 2023, today are now reckoned again to have been too low and are actually 764,000. The figure was already the highest levels of arrivals in British history ever, and is now even higher.

The Conservative Party has sold itself as a party of border control to the public for decades, and promised at several elections in a row that it won that it would reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, in other words fewer than 100,000 every year. Instead, the party used the promised opportunity to enact border control after Brexit to instead massively liberalise immigration rules, and instead is importing one million new people, net, every 18 months.

Nevertheless, the Conservatives insist Labour would be worse. Speaking on Wednesday evening after he called the general election, Sunak warned Labour would undo the progress the Conservatives claim to have made.

Introduced by the Home Secretary James Cleverley — who has the responsibility in government for border control — Sunak strode onto the stage giving high-fives, before dapping up and bro-hugging his government colleague. As incongruous as that may have been from the staid, managerial Sunak, what he had to say about mass migration was to be far stranger yet.

Sunak was unable to boast of any record or even promise a policy on controlling legal migration, which makes up the vast majority of arrivals and is in an era of historic, all-time highs after the Tories threw the borders wide open, but he sought a point of differentiation on illegal migration. The Prime Minister cited the government’s Rwanda plan, under which a number of boat migrant arrivals to the United Kingdom would be sent to East Africa to live at taxpayer’s expense.

He said: “Just look at our plan to cut migration and stop the boats with our Rwanda scheme. Across Europe the penny is dropping, that ours is the right approach. But if Labour become the next government they’ll scrap the Rwanda scheme, and enact a de facto amnesty for asylum seekers, making us a magnet for every illegal immigrant in Europe. In every way, Labour would make our country less secure.”

Fair enough, perhaps, but a few glaring problems with the claim. The Rwanda plan has been much talked about since it was first mooted over two years and two Prime Ministers ago in April 2022, but not a single aircraft has yet forcibly deported a single migrant yet. Indeed today, just hours after making the Rwanda plan a key plank of his election campaign launch, Sunak has humiliatingly had to admit even his much-delayed timetable for first deportations isn’t happening before the election at all.

Labour, for their part, called out the Prime Minister on the Rwanda backsliding today. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper added: “He doesn’t believe this plan will work, and that’s why he called the election now in the desperate hope that he won’t be found out.” Once again, the Conservatives are left in the awkward position of having drifted so far left on fundamental party issues like immigration and taxation, they are being attacked credibly from the left on them. 

That is not to say the Conservatives are unchallenged from the right on these issues, indeed the fact Nigel Farage’s Reform UK are seriously undermining the Tory vote. The Conservative approach to this threat from the right has been to deny it the publicity of admitting its existence, with Sunak repeating several times since announcing the election yesterday that it is a two-horse race between him and Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer.

While Farage isn’t standing at the election himself, he’s stood down from his national television show to free himself up to campaign against the Conservatives, and Reform UK is calling this “the immigration election”.

Deputy party leader Ben Habib said on Thursday morning: “make no mistake this general election is an incredibly important one… more people have come to this country in the last 25 years than in all of history before that”.

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