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Prime Minister facing open revolt after losing control of borders: Starmer

Rishi Sunak is facing open revolt from the Tories and his party has “lost control of the borders”, Sir Keir Starmer has claimed.

The Labour leader pressed the Prime Minister on rising migration figures, days after official estimates showed net migration for 2023, up until June, stood at 672,000.

Sir Keir claimed Mr Sunak had the “reverse Midas touch”, amid rising migration figures, NHS waiting lists and the tax burden, all of which the Prime Minister has sought to tackle.

Mr Sunak defended his record and claimed the “toughest action ever taken to reduce legal migration” is “yet to be felt”.

The Labour leader said: “In 2019, they all promised the country that they would control immigration, numbers will come down, the British people will be in control. How’s it going?”

Mr Sunak said: “Let me be crystal clear, the levels of migration are far too high and I am determined to bring them back down to sustainable levels.

“That’s why we have asked the Migration Advisory Council to review certain elements of the system. We’re reviewing those findings and will bring forward next steps.

“But earlier this year we announced the toughest action ever taken to reduce legal migration.

“The effects of that action are yet to be felt, but will impact 150,000 student dependants and forecasts show that migration is likely to drop as a result.”

He said Labour would do a “secret backroom deal with the EU that would see an additional 100,000 migrants here every year”.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Labour leader Keir Starmer during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

Sir Keir later told MPs: “There is only one party that has lost control of the borders and they are sitting right there. This is a Government not just in turmoil, in open revolt.”

The Labour leader pointed to former home secretary Suella Braverman’s claims that Mr Sunak reneged on his agreement with her to introduce harsher immigration measures in exchange for her support in the 2022 Conservative leadership contest.

He also highlighted immigration minister Robert Jenrick’s claims in the Commons on Tuesday that he wished stronger immigration reforms could have been brought forward last year.

Sir Keir told MPs: “The immigration minister thinks the Prime Minister is failing because apparently nobody will listen to his secret plan, the former home secretary thinks he is failing because of his ‘magical thinking’, the current Home Secretary (James Cleverly) thinks he is failing.

“He even took time out of his busy schedule insulting people in the North East to admit he agrees with Labour.

“The Prime Minister seems to be the only person on the Tory benches without his own personal immigration plan. Cleary his own side don’t have any faith in him. Why should the public?”

Referring to Sir Keir’s previous remarks, Mr Sunak replied: “It is really a bit rich to hear about this from someone who described all immigration law as racist, who literally said it was a mistake to control immigration.

“We have taken steps and we will take further steps, which is why recent estimates of immigration show that it is slowing.”

The Labour leader responded: “On their watch migration has just trebled and he is giving the House a lecture about targets. He is lost in la la land. There can be few experiences more haunting for the Members opposite than hearing this Prime Minister claim that he is going to sort out a problem.”

It comes as a senior Home Office official told MPs they do not know the whereabouts of more than 17,000 asylum seekers whose claims have been withdrawn.

Sir Keir listed rising NHS waiting lists, the net migration figures and the rising tax burden among issues the Prime Minister had promised to tackle.

Referring to the diplomatic spat with Greece over the Elgin Marbles, he said: “It is ironic that he has suddenly taken such a keen interest in Greek culture when he has clearly become the man with the reverse Midas touch.

“Everything he touches turns to – maybe the Home Secretary can help me out here?”

Mr Cleverly, the Home Secretary, could be seen heckling the Labour leader after he referred to the controversy over whether he called Stockton-on-Tees a “shithole”.

The Cabinet minister has claimed he was misheard, and called Stockton North’s Labour MP Alex Cunningham a “shit MP” instead.

Sir Keir responded: “We will have to check the tape again I think. Will the Prime Minister do the country a favour, warn us what he is planning next so we can prepare ourselves for the disaster that will inevitably follow?”

Mr Sunak replied that the Government had “delivered” on its pledge to halve inflation, adding that Sir Keir had instead supported “inflationary pay rises” and planned to borrow £28 billion a year that “would just make the situation worse”.

As he concluded by claiming Sir Keir could keep trying to “talk tough”, the Prime Minister’s microphone was cut off before he could finish saying “Britain isn’t listening”.

Mr Sunak later faced pressure form his own backbenches to support immigration minister Mr Jenrick, who may bring forward a Bill to reduce migration.

Conservative former minister Sir John Hayes said: “The 1.3 million migrants over a period of two years is a catastrophe for Britain. It is obvious to everyone apart from guilt-ridden bourgeois liberals and greed-driven globalists.

“So, given that those same kind of people are stymieing the Prime Minister’s stop-the-boats campaign, will he bring urgent measures forward to deal with legal migration?

“And in terms of the Bill that he has promised, will he ensure it is exactly in the form recommended by his own immigration minister?”

The Prime Minister said: “We are reviewing the recommendations of the (Migration Advisory Committee) and we’ll be bringing forward measures on top of the very significant restrictions that we’ve already announced on student dependants.

“When it comes to stopping illegal migration I’ve been crystal clear, we will bring forward legislation that makes it unequivocally the case that Rwanda is safe and there will be no more ability of our domestic courts to block flights to Rwanda.”

Asked what he hoped published migration figures would be in a year’s time, Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “You’ve got to be just a little bit more patient, not very much more patient, but a bit more patient to hear what we come forward with in the near term on exactly those issues.”