Labour will open door to 100,000 illegal migrants, warns James Cleverly

Illegal immigrants in a boat at Gravelines, near Dunkirk
More than 800 illegal migrants crossed the Channel on Tuesday, the highest daily total for 18 months - Sameer al-Doumy/AFP via Getty

Labour risks opening the door to 100,000 migrants who entered Europe illegally if Sir Keir Starmer joins an EU quota scheme, the Home Secretary has claimed.

James Cleverly said this was “the opposite” of what British people wanted and claimed it was part of Sir Keir’s plan to reverse Brexit “by the back door”.

Labour last year denied it planned to join an existing scheme under which countries accept up to 120,000 asylum seekers a year, but said it would be willing to accept migrants from Europe as part of an EU-wide returns deal.

However, Mr Cleverly warned that Sir Keir wanted to “go further with new concessions to the EU”.

Immigration is a key battleground for both the Tories and Labour in the general election campaign. Last Tuesday, more than 800 migrants crossed the Channel, the highest daily total for 18 months.

Writing for The Sunday Telegraph, see below, Mr Cleverly said: “Labour has indicated that they are considering joining an EU quota scheme for migration. That’s likely to mean the UK taking 100,000 more illegal migrants into our country from the EU – the opposite of what the British people want. Funnily enough, they weren’t sufficiently honest to front it up and stick it in their manifesto.

“Together with their plans to scrap the Rwanda deterrent and a possible illegal migration amnesty, they would cement our position as the soft touch capital of the world for illegal migrants.”

Under Rishi Sunak’s plans, migrants who arrived at the UK illegally will be sent to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed.

However, Labour has pledged to scrap the Rwanda scheme and instead allow those arriving in the UK on small boats to apply for asylum in the UK, which the Conservatives have dubbed an “amnesty for illegal immigrants”.

Mr Cleverly added: “So far Keir Starmer’s schemes amount to a spectacular betrayal of the British people’s vote.

“Clearly he can still not accept their democratic decision. He seems still to want to cast away all of our newfound freedoms to be back in his familiar territory of the EU’s orbit.”

Sunday marks the eighth anniversary of the vote to leave the European Union, which the Tories are using as a launch pad for a series of attacks on Labour and the party’s record on Brexit.

The Prime Minister has warned that Labour would “put Brexit in peril” while Kemi Badenoch, the Business Secretary, said that instead of using the opportunities, Sir Keir wants to “renegotiate the Brexit deal, taking us back to square one of being a rule-taker from Brussels”.

Rishi Sunak speaks to members of Home Office staff during a visit to Dover,
Rishi Sunak speaks to Home Office staff during a visit to Dover last year - Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool/AFP via Getty

Sir Keir has called for closer cooperation with Brussels on education, defence and security. He has also said he does not want to diverge from EU standards on workers’ rights and food standards.

These are among 15 ways in which the Labour party wants to rejoin the EU “by the back door”, the Conservatives have claimed.

The list also includes that Labour wants to “tear down” barriers to trade with the bloc and give millions of EU nationals the right to vote in general elections.

Last year, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said that Britain would take asylum seekers from the EU as part of any returns deal under a Labour government, but would not formally join the European quota scheme.

Ms Cooper said that Labour would be willing to accept people from mainland Europe as part of deal that would enable the Government to send Channel migrants back to France, which has not been possible since Brexit.

But she insisted any returns deal would focus on reuniting children with their families in Britain and would not involve signing up to be a member of the EU’s quota system.

Under the European quota scheme, northern states would take at least 30,000 migrants and up to 120,000 asylum seekers a year, from countries most under pressure from cross-Mediterranean migration such as Italy and Greece.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir insisted that Labour has no plans to rejoin the EU, the single market or the customs union.

The plane that was due to take asylum seekers to Rwanda
The plane that was due to take asylum seekers to Rwanda - Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty

Speaking on the campaign trail on Saturday, he said he wanted a better trade relationship with the EU and “much more collaboration” on research and development, education, security, and other areas, adding that it was all subject to negotiation.

“But I do think we can get a better deal with the EU, and if we are elected to government that is what we will endeavour to do,”  he added.

It comes as exclusive polling by Savanta for the Daily T podcast reveals that just a quarter (24 per cent) of British adults say that Brexit has helped the UK’s ability to control immigration.

The majority (53 per cent) said that Brexit has in fact hindered the UK’s ability to control immigration. A further quarter (23 per cent) said they did not know.

While Remainers were far more likely to say that Brexit has hindered (71 per cent) the UK’s ability to control immigration than helped, Leavers were far more divided with just over a third (36 per cent) saying it was a help compared to 34 per cent saying it was a hindrance.

A Labour spokesman said: “These are just desperate lies from a party that has totally failed to control our borders or manage the asylum system, and is spending hundreds of millions of pounds on failing gimmicks. Labour has repeatedly ruled out joining the EU member states quota scheme. Devoid of ideas, the Tories have resorted to making things up.”

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Every hard-won Brexit benefit is now at risk

By James Cleverly

Sir Keir Starmer didn’t just oppose Brexit, he voted to block it 48 times in Parliament and led the charge for a second referendum to overturn the first. So it comes perhaps as no huge surprise that he appears to want to get Britain back into the Brussels bloc by the back door.

James Cleverly
James Cleverly says Starmer appears to want to get Britain back into the Brussels bloc by the back door - Stefan Rousseau/AFP via Getty

Keir Starmer has never thought the UK could survive and thrive as an independent country – and Brexit Britain has shown him how wrong he was. Defying his dire predictions, the UK has grown faster than Germany, Italy and Japan since the referendum in 2016. Britain is the fourth-biggest exporter in the world behind only China, the US and Germany.

Since leaving the EU, we have signed trade deals with more than 70 countries, partners that accounted for £1.1 trillion of UK bilateral trade in 2022. We have revoked or reformed more than 2,000 EU laws, freeing our businesses from burdensome red tape. We have taken back control of our fishing waters and our support scheme for farmers. We made use of our freedoms to be the fastest to roll out the life-saving Covid vaccine in Europe.

Despite this, Starmer doesn’t believe in Britain’s future as a sovereign nation.

Instead, he and his manifesto talk gleefully about the need to “deepen” Britain’s relationship with “our European friends” and build on our current “thin” deal with the EU.

But he is refusing to be upfront and honest with the British people about what he will accept in return for his fatter deal.

The EU could not be clearer that removing “barriers to trade” comes hand in hand with accepting the supremacy of EU law and diktats from the European Court of Justice. But Britain voted for Brexit to take back control of our laws.

A more comprehensive trade deal like the one Switzerland has with the EU requires free movement of EU citizens into their country. But Britain voted for Brexit to take back control of our borders.

And despite Starmer’s denials, senior figures in the Labour party still appear to be eying up rejoining the Customs Union. That could put British taxpayers on the hook for a hefty annual bill and prevent the UK striking its own trade deals. And Britain voted for Brexit to take back control of our money and trade.

So far, Starmer’s schemes appear to amount to a spectacular betrayal of the British people’s vote. Clearly he can still not accept their democratic decision. He seems still to want to cast away all of our newfound freedoms to be back in his familiar territory of the EU’s orbit.

Worse still, he wants to go further with new concessions to the EU. Labour has indicated it is are considering joining an EU quota scheme for migration. That’s likely to mean the UK taking 100,000 more illegal migrants into our country from the EU – the opposite of what the British people want. Funnily enough, they weren’t sufficiently honest to front it up and stick it in their manifesto.

Together with their plan to scrap the Rwanda deterrent and an illegal migration amnesty, they would cement our position as the soft touch capital of the world for illegal migrants.

And if that weren’t enough, Starmer wants to try to undermine Nato too by entering a new defence pact with the EU.

Anyone who has seen the EU trying to decide how to respond to a defence threat as a bloc will be horrified at the idea of the UK being bound by their inertia. It would alienate our Five Eyes allies and weaken our position on the world stage.

In fact, they can’t convincingly rule out going whole hog and rejoining Britain to the EU as a fully paid-up member. Make no mistake, Brexit would be in grave peril under Labour.

In contrast, the Conservatives have a plan to go further still in seizing our Brexit benefits. We will complete the process of joining the Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP) of fast-growing nations. Once we join, the CPTPP will have a combined GDP of £12 trillion, an exciting opportunity for British businesses and entrepreneurs and a huge boost to our economy.

We will scrap more defective EU law to build 100,000 more homes for families to get their feet on the housing ladder. And we will control migration with a new legal cap to get numbers falling every year for the next five years and give democratically accountable MPs a vote on annual levels.

That’s the clear choice at this election – between the Conservatives’ clear plan to seize even more benefits of Brexit, protect our democracy and build a more secure future for our children and grandchildren, and Labour, which has no ideas other to overturn the democratic will of the people, raise taxes and take us back to square one.

James Cleverly is the Home Secretary