In the clearest sign yet that he had no intention of backing away from the controversial plan to send illegal migrants to Rwanda, the Prime Minister declared that “where we lead others will follow”.
Ahead of meetings with world leaders at the G20 summit in India, the Prime Minister said that other countries are now looking at “similar solutions” and said tackling this challenge would require “global co-ordination”.
The PM also said Britain is working to strengthen migrant return agreements with a range of countries. And in a boost for Mr Sunak, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said her country is ready to “intensify” co-operation with the UK on migration.
At the landmark gathering of world leaders:
● Britain pledged £1.6billion to help tackle climate change;
● Mr Sunak met Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and said there is a “desire on both of our parts to see a successful trade deal concluded”;
● World leaders agreed a joint statement on Ukraine in which they condemned the “use of force” to seize territory;
● The PM insisted reaching net zero “shouldn’t be a hair-shirt story of giving everything up” and bills rising.
When asked whether other countries are following his lead on the Rwanda scheme, he said: “I said Britain would be tough but fair, and where Britain leads others will follow. We have been willing to take bold and radical action to tackle this problem.
“I said that other countries would look at similar solutions, and you can start to see that they are with the news from Austria and, more broadly, across Europe.”
Austria last week backed calls for a Rwanda-style scheme for EU members, with immigration a key electoral issue in Poland, Germany and the Netherlands later this year.
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Describing his meeting with Ms Meloni – at which the leaders discussed working “closer together” on migration – he said: “She and I have a view that this is an important topic that needs us to work together.
So that won’t be the last of these conversations I have.” Ms Meloni, who sipped an Aperol spritz while Mr Sunak drank water during their meeting, defended Britain’s Rwanda policy earlier this year, saying it was a deal between two free nations which were safeguarding the safety of people, and that it was wrong to call it a deportation.
An upcoming Supreme Court ruling will determine whether flights carrying migrants to Rwanda can take off. Mr Sunak said that Britain had been “out in front, leading the conversation” on tackling illegal immigration.
It comes as Sir Keir Starmer will this week launch an audacious bid to prove Labour is tougher on illegal immigration than the Conservatives, by announcing plans for a specialist unit in the National Crime Agency to fight people-smuggling gangs.
British officials will work with border officials overseas, with the crackdown funded by scrapping the Government’s scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, Sir Keir will say.
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At the summit, in a further sign that Mr Sunak does not want Britain to retreat from the world stage, the UK pledged £1.6billion to support efforts to tackle climate change.
He said Britons wanted the UK to help “solve some of the world’s biggest problems”. The funds will go towards the Green Climate Fund, which was established by 194 countries following the Copenhagen Accord at COP15.
He said: “The UK is stepping up and delivering on our climate commitments, both by decarbonising our own economy and supporting the world’s most vulnerable to deal with the impact of climate change.”
Mr Sunak defended efforts to achieve net zero carbon emissions, saying: “Net zero done in the right way can be very beneficial for jobs. The net zero story shouldn’t be a hair-shirt story of giving everything up and your bills going up.”
Instead, he argued: “The vision of net zero that commands the most support and is the right one is one that recognises it’s important for our kids and our grandkids to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. I believe that.
“But we need to do that in a way that creates jobs for people and spreads opportunity.” A key goal for the PM is securing a trade deal with India that would win new access to this market of 1.4 billion people.
After his meeting with Mr Modi, he said: “The opportunities are there for both countries but there is a lot of hard work that is still to go and we need to work through that, as we will do.”
The two men hugged each other and Mr Sunak praised the Indian space mission that saw it successfully land on the far side of the Moon last month.
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