UK and Italy’s values very aligned, Sunak says, in meeting with Italian PM
Rishi Sunak and Italian premier Giorgia Meloni vowed to work together on challenges including tackling illegal migration, as they hailed the “very strong” relations between their two countries.
The Prime Minister welcomed his far-right Italian counterpart, who is on a two-day visit to Britain, to Downing Street on Thursday.
In warm words ahead of their private talks, Mr Sunak described the UK and Italy’s values as “very aligned”, while Ms Meloni praised him as a “very strong” and empathetic leader.
They will sign a memorandum of understanding which Mr Sunak said will strengthen co-operation on reducing irregular migration, defence and the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
They will later head to Westminster Abbey together for a private tour.
The Prime Minister paid tribute to Ms Meloni’s “very careful handling of the Italian economy”.
He continued: “I think the values between our two countries are very aligned, which is why we can work so well together on shared challenges, whether it’s responding to Putin’s illegal invasion in Ukraine, where again I pay tribute to your leadership, but also tackling illegal migration, which is something that is common to both of us.”
Stemming the flow of migrants is a key issue for both governments, with Mr Sunak having made “stopping the boats” crossing the Channel one of his priorities.
Ms Meloni said the UK Government is doing “very well” on the issue.
“We have nations that, as you said, well they have a strong partnership since decades, but I think there is much more that we can do on many topics on which we are on the same side – defence, Ukraine,” she said.
“Tackling traffickers and illegal migration is something that your Government is doing very well.
“I’m following your work and I absolutely agree with your work and I think there are many things that we can do together.”
She also hailed a “new beginning” for bilateral co-operation.
The meeting comes a day after the Government’s flagship asylum Bill cleared its final stages in the House of Commons, though it will face a stiff test in the Lords when it undergoes further scrutiny.
The Illegal Migration Bill will change the law so people who arrive in the UK illegally will be detained and then promptly removed, either to their home country or a safe third country such as Rwanda.
Big #Solidarity to all who joined the protest against fascist Italian PM #Meloni, blockading the gates of Downing Street and making it clear that we say #NoToFascistMeloni #NeverAgain#RefugeesWelcome pic.twitter.com/qjxFpZSAUr
— Stand Up To Racism (@AntiRacismDay) April 27, 2023
In Italy, Ms Meloni has led a crackdown on people smugglers and on rescue ships operated by charities, which she says are encouraging a growing number of migrants to risk dangerous voyages from north Africa across the Mediterranean.
On the agenda too is the agreement between the UK, Italy and Japan to develop next-generation fighter jets.
The defence partnership, announced in December, hopes to see the planes, called Tempest in the UK, in the skies by 2035 and serve as a successor to the RAF Typhoon.
Mr Sunak and Ms Meloni first met on the sidelines of the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt last November, weeks after they took office within days of each other.
Ms Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party leads the country’s first hard right-led government since the Second World War.
A group of protesters gathered outside the gates of Downing Street as the leaders met, holding signs that read “no to fascist Meloni” and chanting: “Refugees in, Meloni out”.