Starmer would halt Rwanda flights immediately under Labour government

Starmer would halt Rwanda flights immediately under Labour government

No deportation flights to Rwanda will take off under a Labour government, Sir Keir Starmer has told Sky News.

The Labour leader told Sky News political editor Beth Rigby “there’ll be no flights” as he wants to “scrap the scheme”, which aims to send asylum seekers entering the UK illegally from a safe country, such as France, to Rwanda.

Earlier in the day Sir Keir confirmed Labour wanted to get rid of the Conservatives’ flagship scheme to reduce illegal immigration but a party spokesman said they would not stop flights already planned.

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Starmer sets out small boats plan

But Sir Keir told Sky News: “There’ll be no flights. I want to scrap the scheme so that means the flights won’t be going.

“There will be no flights scheduled or taking off after the general election if Labour wins that general election.

“No flights, no Rwanda scheme, it’s a gimmick, it’s very expensive, it won’t work.”

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Migrants arrive in Dover

Sir Keir earlier announced his plan to tackle small boat crossings, which also included a new Border Security Command with “hundreds of specialist investigators”, new counter-terrorism powers to target people smugglers, hopes for a new Europol partnership and a rules-based asylum system.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called Sir Keir’s plan “rank hypocrisy” and said everything the Labour leader announced today “are all things that we’re already doing”.

“Punching through the backlog, having more law enforcement officers do more, that’s all happening already,” he said.

“We’ve announced all of that more than a year ago. The question for Keir Starmer if he cares so much about that, why did he vote against the new laws that we passed to give our law enforcement officers new powers?

“They’ve now used those to arrest almost 8,000 people connected with illegal migration, sentenced them to hundreds of years in prison.

“And if it was up to him, all those people would be out on our streets so I think it’s rank hypocrisy of his position.”

Ruthless Starmer has spoiled Sunak’s moment

Sir Keir revealed Labour’s plan at a speech in Dover alongside his newest MP, Natalie Elphicke, who defected from the Conservatives.

Her defection has been met with outrage by some Labour MPs as she was seen to be on the right of the Tory Party, especially with her views on immigration.

She also faced criticism for supporting her ex-husband, former Dover MP Charlie Elphicke, after he was convicted of sexually assaulting two women. She has now apologised for supporting him.

Sir Keir said accepting Mrs Elphicke into the party shows it has changed and shows how the Conservatives are “no longer the party that can take our country forward”.

Pic: PA
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, sits with new Labour MP Natalie Elphicke, during a visit to Dover, Kent, to set out his party's plans to tackle the small boats crisis if it wins the general election, with a pledge to end the Conservative party's 'talk tough, do nothing culture' on small boats crossing the English Channel. Picture date: Friday May 10, 2024.
Sir Keir said Natalie Elphicke’s defection shows the Tories are no longer the party to govern. Pic: PA

Asked if he was ruthless, he said: “Yes, I’m ruthless in trying to ensure we have a Labour government who can change this country for the better.

“Not ruthless for my own ambition, not ruthlessness particularly for the Labour Party.

“I’m ruthless for the country.”

He added that the only way to bring about change in the UK is “if we’re ruthless about winning the general election and putting in place a government of public service”.

The latest polling, carried out by Survation and published on 9 May, has Labour winning the next general election with a landslide victory of 486 seats – 45% of the vote, with the Tories 19 points behind on 26%.

Taking an average of the most recent polls from each major pollster, Labour is set to win with 43.5% of the vote, with the Tories taking 23.5% and the Liberal Democrats 9.7%.

Sir Keir said he does not know if he can win a majority but he hopes so.

In May 2023 he ruled out any sort of deal with the SNP if he did not win a majority but would not rule out a deal with the Liberal Democrats.

On Friday he said: “I’m ruling out any sort of deal with the SNP before or after the election.

“Am I going for a majority Labour government? Yes, I am.

“That depends on whether we can earn the trust and confidence of voters across the country.”

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When pushed on whether he would do a deal with the Lib Dems, he again refused to rule it out, saying: “I’m going for a majority.

“That’s the answer I gave you two years, a year ago, it’s the same answer I gave you then.”