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Politics latest news: No 10 hits back at Ursula von der Leyen over Brexit remarks

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is pictured leaving 10 Downing Street this morning
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is pictured leaving 10 Downing Street this morning - Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency

Downing Street has rejected Ursula von der Leyen’s call to “fix” Brexit after she urged young people to reverse the UK’s split from Brussels.

No10 said Rishi Sunak does not believe that Brexit is “in peril” despite the President of the European Commission suggesting the UK could be on a path to rejoin the bloc.

Interviewed by Politico at an event in Brussels, Mrs von der Leyen said “the direction of travel” was clear and suggested the younger generation could “fix” the mistake of Brexit.

Asked at lunchtime if Brexit was “in peril”, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “No.”

And asked if Mr Sunak agreed with Mrs von der Leyen, the spokesman said: “No. It’s through our Brexit freedoms that we are, right now, considering how to further strengthen our migration system.

“It is through our Brexit freedoms we are ensuring patients in the UK can get access to medicines faster, that there is improved animal welfare. That is very much what we are focused on.”

You can follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments section here.


04:00 PM GMT

That is all for today...

Thank you for joining us for today’s politics live blog.

I will be back tomorrow morning.


03:41 PM GMT

No plan B if Rwanda scheme fails, Home Office admits

The top civil servant at the Home Office has admitted it does not have a “plan B” if the Government fails to get its Rwanda policy off the ground.

Sir Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary at the Home Office, said that civil servants were doing “all sorts of contingency planning” but he would not call it a plan B because ministers had not agreed to such a scheme.

His comments come as the Government attempts to salvage its Rwanda deportation plan after it was declared unlawful by the Supreme Court.

You can read the full story here.


03:20 PM GMT

No return to 0.7 per cent aid target in next five years, signals Hunt

Jeremy Hunt has ruled out the prospect of the UK returning to its original aid spending target within the next five years.

The Chancellor indicated it would not be affordable to meet the goal of spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on official developmental assistance (ODA).

The spending commitment was slashed to 0.5 per cent in 2021 as a temporary measure due to the economic impact of the pandemic, with the intention of returning to 0.7 per cent when the public finances improved.

Asked about returning to the target in the next five years, Mr Hunt said: “I don’t think the fiscal position makes it possible to do that. But I would say this, that we are very committed to do that when it is affordable to do so.”

He added that “I don’t believe it is possible to budget for that in the figures” in the next five years.


02:54 PM GMT

Labour blast Tories over cost of Rwanda scheme

Labour said the prospect of the UK sending more money to Rwanda to pay for the stalled migrant deportation scheme (see the post below at 10.27) represented an “affront to the hard-working British taxpayer”.

Stephen Kinnock, the shadow immigration minister, said: “Revelations that Britain is set to send yet more cash to Rwanda – despite not a single asylum seeker having yet been transferred there – is an affront to the hard-working British taxpayer.

“The fixed annual costs announced are in addition to the Tories already bunging the Rwandan Government £140 million for a press statement announcing the plan. And all of this is on top of the £169,000 the government has said it will cost for a single asylum seeker to be sent to Rwanda. How much more will the Conservatives fork out for their unworkable gimmick?”


02:32 PM GMT

Sunak believes in Brexit 'passionately', says No10

Rishi Sunak’s press secretary stressed the Prime Minister’s Brexiteer credentials.

“We have a Prime Minister that championed Brexit before it was in his career interest to do so because he believes in it passionately,” she told reporters in Westminster.

“We are very focused on making a success of it.”


01:52 PM GMT

No10 hits back at EU chief over reverse Brexit remarks

Rishi Sunak does not believe that Brexit is “in peril” despite European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen suggesting the UK could be on a path to rejoin the bloc.

Interviewed by Politico at an event in Brussels, Mrs von der Leyen told an event that “the direction of travel” was clear and suggested the younger generation could “fix” the mistake of Brexit.

Asked if Mr Sunak agreed, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “No. It’s through our Brexit freedoms that we are, right now, considering how to further strengthen our migration system.

“It is through our Brexit freedoms we are ensuring patients in the UK can get access to medicines faster, that there is improved animal welfare. That is very much what we are focused on.”

Asked if Brexit was in peril, the spokesman said: “No.”

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission
Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission - Olivier Hoslet /Shutterstock

01:51 PM GMT

Lord Cameron set out UK stance on Elgin Marbles 'clearly' in meeting with Greek counterpart

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron “set out our position on the sculptures very clearly” in his meeting with his Greek counterpart on Tuesday, Downing Street said.

“They spoke yesterday. It was not a bilat or a formal meeting in any… sense,” the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said.

“He set out our position on the sculptures clearly as we have done publicly. Obviously there are shared challenges we will continue to discuss.”


01:24 PM GMT

Sunak denies claim he thought ‘just let people die’ during pandemic

Rishi Sunak denied Dominic Cummings’ claim that he thought the Government should “just let people die” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Responding to a question from Labour’s Tulip Siddiq, the Prime Minister said: “There is an ongoing inquiry into Covid and it’s right that process is followed, and I look forward to providing my own evidence.

“But if she had taken the time to actually read the evidence submitted to the inquiry, she will have seen that… the chief (scientific) adviser confirmed that he did not hear me say that. And that’s because I didn’t.”


01:22 PM GMT

No10 denies Sunak insulted Greek PM

Downing Street has denied Rishi Sunak was insulting the leader of a Nato ally to distract from domestic migration figures after he accused his Greek counterpart of trying to “grandstand” over the Elgin Marbles.

Asked why he was “insulting” the Greek PM, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said “assurances” the UK had sought were “not adhered to”.

Asked why it took until Monday to cancel the planned meeting if assurances about the topic were apparently broken on Sunday morning, he said: “There were discussions on Monday and then the meeting didn’t go ahead.”


12:48 PM GMT

Backbench Tory calls for 'urgent measures' to tackle migration

Tory MP Sir John Hayes said migration levels are a catastrophe for Britain and urged the Prime Minister to adopt Robert Jenrick’s immigration plan.

He said: “Will he bring urgent measures forward to deal with legal migration, and in terms of the bill that he’s promised will he ensure it’s exactly the form recommended by his own immigration minister?”

Mr Sunak said the Government was reviewing the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee and would revive the Rwanda plan to tackle illegal immigration.


12:35 PM GMT

Labour leader: Sunak is 'lost in la-la land'

Sir Keir labels Mr Sunak “the man with the reverse Midas touch” and claims he is “lost of la-la land” over claims he would reduce immigration.

He said: “There can be few experiences more haunting for the members opposite than hearing the Prime Minister claim he’s going to sort out a problem.”

The Prime Minister hits out at Starmer for backing “inflationary pay rises” and claims the Government has delivered the biggest tax cuts since the 1980s while increasing pension and benefits.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, addresses the House of Commons during PMQs this afternoon
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, addresses the House of Commons during PMQs this afternoon

12:29 PM GMT

PM is the only Tory 'without his own personal immigration plan', says Starmer

Pointing at the Government benches, Sir Keir said: “There’s only one party that’s lost control of the borders and they’re sitting right there.”

He continued: “This is a government not just in turmoil but in open revolt... the Prime Minister seems to be the only person on the Tory benches without his own personal immigration plan.”

Mr Sunak calls the claim “a bit rich from someone who described all immigration law as ‘racist’, who literally said it was  a mistake to control immigration”.


12:26 PM GMT

PM's immigration policy is 'perverse', says Starmer

Sir Keir pledged to scrap the Prime Minister’s “perverse wage cutting policy”, listing the jobs where workers from abroad can be paid thousands of pounds less than British nationals.

Mr Sunak responded: “We have taken significant measures and will bring forward more”. He adds that Sir Keir once called restrictions on skilled migrants “economic vandalism”.


12:22 PM GMT

Starmer: PM has 'no plan' to stop boats or legal migration

Sir Keir claimed Mr Sunak had “no plan” to stop small boats cross the Channel as he turns his focus to record net migration levels.

He continued: “His policy is that companies can pay workers from abroad 20 per cent less than British workers, that has contributed to those record high immigration levels.”

The Prime Minister hits back by accusing the Labour leader of “backing an EU country over Britain”, noting that his favourite piece of music is the Ode to Joy - “literally the anthem of the European Union”.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, addresses the House of Commons during PMQs this afternoon
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, addresses the House of Commons during PMQs this afternoon

12:17 PM GMT

Sunak: Greek PM was 'grandstanding' over Elgin Marbles

Sir Keir Starmer says Rishi Sunak was guilty of “small politics” when he cancelled a meeting with the Greek prime minister at the last minute on Monday.

The Labour leader said: “A fellow Nato member, an economic ally, one of our most important partners in tackling illegal immigration.

“But instead of using the meeting to discuss those serious issues he tried to humiliate him... Why such small politics?”

Mr Sunak said he cancelled his meeting because the Greek leader was attempting to “grandstand and relitigate issues of the past” over the Elgin Marbles.


12:12 PM GMT

Elgin marbles row is attempt to hide migration failings, says Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer begins his questions by accusing the Prime Minister of trying to “hide his failures” by manufacturing  a row over the Elgin Marbles.

The Labour leader said: “In an effort to hide from his failures, the Prime Minister spent this week arguing about an ancient relic that only a tiny minority of the British public have any interest in... that’s enough about the Tory party.”

He then accused Mr Sunak of breaking promises from the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto to reduce net migration, which recently hit a record high.

The Prime Minister responded: “The levels of migration are far too high and I’m determined to bring them back down to sustainable levels

“Earlier this year we announced the toughest action ever taken to to reduce legal migration. The effects of that action are yet to be felt that will impact 150,000 student dependants.”

Taking aim at Sir Keir, he continued: “All we’ve heard up until this moment from the honourable gentleman on this topic is a secret backroom deal with the EU that would see an additional 100,000 migrants here very year.”


12:06 PM GMT

Sunak defends record on energy bills

PMQs is now underway.

Rishi Sunak defends the government’s energy policy when questioned by an SNP MP, telling the Commons: “We are providing a considerable support to everyone across the UK with their energy bills this year.”


11:48 AM GMT

Sunak set to face Starmer at PMQs

Rishi Sunak is just minutes away from facing Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons.

The Labour leader is likely to grill Mr Sunak on net migration, which hit a record high of 745,000 in the year to December, or his decision to snub the Greek prime minister in a row over the Elgin Marbles.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves No 10 Downing Street to attend Prime Minister's Questions
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves No 10 Downing Street to attend Prime Minister's Questions - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

11:34 AM GMT

Shadow minister: Unsafe town centres are holding back growth

Labour would crack down on anti-social behaviour because “too many” town centres feel unsafe, a shadow minister has said.

Anneliese Dodds, the shadow women and equalities secretary, said the move would help support the ailing high street, alongside scrapping business rates and tackling late payments.

She told GB News: “We’d... be clamping down on anti-social behaviour, because I’m sure a lot of people watching this will know that unfortunately, in too many of our town centres it doesn’t always feel safe when you want to go and shop, when you want to go and use those small businesses.

“We think actually we need to be getting a grip on this, because otherwise we won’t get the economic growth that we need to see from all of those brilliant small businesses.”


11:17 AM GMT

Civil Service 'doesn’t know how many staff are underperforming'

The Civil Service has no idea how many staff are underperforming, the government spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said three government departments – the Home Office, HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – could not provide data on the number of underperforming staff.

Ten were unable to say what happened to staff after they were classed as underperforming, such as how many had been sacked or resigned.

Read the full story here.


11:02 AM GMT

Good morning

Benedict Smith here. I’ll be guiding you through the updates as Westminster gears up for Prime Minister’s Questions at noon. Jack Maidment will be back later today.


10:44 AM GMT

'Costs are about the same as they would be if the person was staying in the UK'

The permanent secretary at the Home Office said the cost of sending someone to Rwanda under the deportation scheme was likely to be about the same as it would cost to keep them in the UK.

Sir Matthew Rycroft was asked during an appearance in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee what the scheme would cost per person once it is up and running.

He replied: “That is commercially sensitive as well but broadly speaking the costs are about the same as they would be if the person was staying in the UK.”

Asked again how much that would be, Sir Matthew said he was “not at liberty to pass that on”.


10:27 AM GMT

Home Office chief won’t say how much more money UK is paying Rwanda

Sir Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary at the Home Office, would not tell MPs how much more money the UK may be giving to Rwanda in the current financial year for the migrant deportation scheme.

A total of £140million has been given to Kigali previously. No migrant flights have yet arrived in Rwanda because the Government’s policy was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.

Sir Matthew told the Home Affairs Select Committee this morning: “There are additional payments each year and ministers decided that the way to keep you and other colleagues in parliament updated is once a year to set out the total additional payments to the government of Rwanda and we will do that in the annual report and accounts.

“So the figures that you set out, the £120million plus the £20million, are the payments from the 2022/23 financial year and then any payments in 23/24 we will announce in the normal way in the next annual report.”

Asked if further payments are being made, Sir Matthew said: “We will announce that in the normal way next summer.”


10:20 AM GMT

UK should rejoin EU to ‘fix’ Brexit, says Ursula von der Leyen

The United Kingdom should rejoin the European Union to “fix” Brexit, Ursula von der Leyen has said, after Labour pledged to forge closer ties with the bloc if elected.

The European Commission president said “we goofed it up” when asked if Britain could ever reverse Brexit on Tuesday night in Brussels.

She was speaking amid much improved UK relations since the signing of Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland in February and after the shock victory of Geert Wilders, who wants the Netherlands to leave the EU, in Dutch elections last week.

You can read the full story here.


10:06 AM GMT

Athens: History and justice on side of Greek claim to Elgin Marbles

Greek foreign minister Giorgos Gerapetritis stressed Athens’ claim to the Elgin Marbles as he attended a summit with Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron.

The pair are both at a Nato foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels this morning.

Mr Gerapetritis said: “As regards my meeting with Secretary Cameron, once again I would like to say that the Greek government has made a statement concerning the cancellation of the meeting with Prime Minister Sunak.

“What I have to say is that the unification of the Parthenon Sculptures is a claim which is based not only on history, not only on justice but it’s a claim of ecumenical cultural values.

“Irrespective of this, it is my understanding that we need to work on a bilateral basis with the UK and we’re going to serve this purpose in the future in order to deepen this long-standing history we have, the two nations.”


09:47 AM GMT

UK has ‘very good relations’ with Greece, insists minister amid Elgin Marbles row

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay insisted the UK has a good relationship with Greece despite the diplomatic storm over the Elgin Marbles.

He defended Rishi Sunak’s decision to snub Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis because of the dispute over the Parthenon Sculptures.

The sculptures are housed in London’s British Museum but Athens has long campaigned for their return.

Mr Barclay told Sky News: “I think the British Museum’s a jewel in the crown, it’s something that people from across the world come and enjoy, and we’re very proud of. So, I don’t think anyone wants to relitigate something that’s been settled for a huge amount of time.

“We have very good relations with the Greek government. In terms of the Elgin Marbles, they’re part of the British Museum. That’s something that’s been a constant for many decades. I don’t think anyone sees any need for that to change.”


09:31 AM GMT

Pictured: Lord Cameron attends a meeting of the Nato-Ukraine Council in Brussels

Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, is pictured this morning in Brussels as he attended a meeting of the Nato-Ukraine Council
Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, is pictured this morning in Brussels as he attended a meeting of the Nato-Ukraine Council - Johanna Geron/Reuters

09:07 AM GMT

Cabinet minister: Government must go ‘further, faster’ to curb net migration

Steve Barclay said the Government needed to go “further, faster” in tackling record high net migration levels.

The Environment Secretary said James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, was “looking at a series of announcements” which could be made to curb the numbers.

Asked if a migration cap should be on the table, Mr Barclay told Times Radio: “I absolutely support bringing the numbers down. We clearly need to go further, faster. We’re taking action, for example, on dependents.

“So around 150,000 student dependents where that route has been closed. So that announcement has been made.

“But the Home Secretary is obviously looking at a series of announcements and I absolutely agree that we need to bring those numbers down.”


08:43 AM GMT

Barclay won’t be drawn on migration cap

Cabinet minister Steve Barclay would not be drawn this morning on whether he would support introducing a cap on migration numbers.

The measure is being pushed for by some Tory MPs and Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, said yesterday there were “strong arguments” for such caps.

Asked if he would support the policy, the Environment Secretary told Times Radio: “We recognise numbers are too high and that is why I fully support the Home Secretary in bringing those down.”


08:29 AM GMT

Pictured: Sir Keir Starmer leaves his London home ahead of PMQs at noon

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is pictured this morning leaving his London home
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is pictured this morning leaving his London home - GoffPhotos

08:18 AM GMT

Net migration levels 'way in excess' of Tory election promises, says Kwarteng

Net migration levels are “way in excess” of what the Tories have promised at past general elections, Kwasi Kwarteng has said.

The former chancellor told GB News that there needs to be “more control” over who is coming to the UK.

He said: “I think it has got to be an immigration that works for the UK and that is why personally I have always found a points-based system attractive.

“You have got to limit the numbers also you have got to have some control of the abilities, the quality, of the people coming into your country so that you can benefit from that. I think the numbers and the people, what they bring to the table, I think needs to be examined.

“Clearly the numbers are way in excess of anything that we have stood for in a general election on and we need to have more control over that. And even the Prime Minister himself, Rishi Sunak, everyone in the Government, seems to be concerned about the scale of that immigration.”


08:15 AM GMT

Kwarteng backs Braverman over raising migrant salary threshold

Kwasi Kwarteng has backed Suella Braverman’s plan to raise the salary threshold for skilled migrants to curb net migration levels.

Asked if he would advocate raising the threshold from the current level of £26,000 to £40,000, Mr Kwarteng told GB News: “So look, I think a cap and also some sort of points system does make sense. I know Robert Jenrick and Suella Braverman well. I think their general approach was a good one.

“And I am not privy to the disagreements they have had with either James Cleverly or if that be the case with Rishi Sunak.

“I mean clearly Suella had been in the department for a year, Priti Patel before that. Robert Jenroick has been there for a while as well and has got experience. I think his approach was probably a good one.”