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11 Feb 2023
Kurt Zindulka

NextImg:UK Govt Walks Back Vow to 'Stop' Migrant Boats, Pledges 'Reduction'

Just over a month after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivered one of his first major speeches to the nation in which he directly promised to “stop the boats”, the government has apparently watered down that pledge, now committing to a “dramatic reduction” in illegal migrants crossing the English Channel.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman, whose department is tasked with enforcing migration laws and containing the ever-growing boat migrant crisis, is seemingly already trying to manage expectations in terms of the government dealing properly with boat crossings, which is first declared a “major incident” in 2018.

Speaking with ITV, the Home Secretary claimed that she is “very confident” in the government’s ability to prevent crossings, but when pressed specifically on if Prime Minister Sunak’s “stop the boats” pledge meant to shut down the people-smuggling trade entirely, she would only commit to a “dramatic reduction in the numbers arriving”.

She did not make it clear what success would look like under these conditions — a crucial omission, considering boat crossings have been hitting new records annually for years now, potentially allowing the government to claim that a potential return to numbers considered disastrous in 2021 or 2020 were a resounding triumph.

She also would not reveal when the government expected to accomplish such a reduction, saying; “I’m not going to put a time scale on it, but what I am going to say, is it’s going to take as long as it will take.”

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On January 4th, Mr Sunak addressed the nation from Downing Street in an attempt to ameliorate concerns over his leadership after having been installed in the country’s highest office by Tory politicians with no electoral mandate and despite having been recently been rejected for the role by members of his own party.

In the speech, the PM laid out his five rather vague main goals: “We will halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists, and stop the boats.”

As the BBC noted at the time: “That was ‘stop the boats’, without qualification.”

It has become the tradition of the Conservative Party to break immigration promises, with the failure on boats harkening back to statements from David Cameron’s former finance chief George Osbourne, who admitted in 2017 that, despite public promises to the contrary, the party leadership never actually had any intention of cutting immigration.

The nonchalant attitude towards public commitments was even demonstrated during Sunak’s first days in office — after the neoliberal globalist wing of the Tory party ousted the short-lived Liz Truss administration in October — with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly quickly walking back Sunak’s promise that he would live up to the 2019 election manifesto upon which he tried to claim governmental legitimacy.

“There was no global pandemic in the 2019 manifesto. There was no invasion of Ukraine in the 2019 manifesto,” the Foreign Secretary said. “We have got to respond to the world as we find it, not the one we wish it to be.”

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Next month, the government is expected to lay out a supposed legislative fix to the boat migrants crisis, which saw over 45,000 arrive last year and is expected to see a further 65,000 land this year. The proposed legislation will reportedly include measures against illegal boat migrants claiming asylum in the United Kingdom and granting powers to Braverman’s Home Office to send them to a safe third country like Rwanda if they cannot be sent back home.

Yet the policy of sending migrants to asylum processing sites in Rwanda has been mired in legal reviews since last year, with months’ more challenges likely. Even if the policy passes through the British judicial system, the United Kingdom is still bound by the will of the European Court of Human Rights, which previously blocked a deportation flight to Rwanda.

Last week, Brexit leader Nigel Farage called for another national referendum to remove Britain from the jurisdiction of the European court, which is technically separate from the EU.

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