Rishi Sunak has rejected calls for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in order to deal with migrant crossings across the Channel, but has urged European countries to do more to address the crisis.
Speaking ahead of the Anglo-French Summit in Paris on Friday, the Prime Minister defended his plans to pay the French government millions of pounds more to increase border collaboration.
Mr Sunak unveiled new legislation this week that restricts asylum seekers crossing the Channel in small boats from accessing Britain’s migration system.
At the time, the Home Secretary admitted that it might violate the UK’s ECHR commitments, while Conservative MPs called for the country to withdraw from the convention entirely.
“I don’t think we need to get into that for the simple reason that we worked really hard to come up with a law that is compliant with the ECHR,” Mr Sunak told reporters on board the Eurostar train to Paris.
“We’ve worked hard to make sure the legislation is compliant and we believe that it is and we will be successfully – touch wood- as we have been with Rwanda in the High Court and the Court of Appeal coming at the end of April.”
The policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing has been challenged in court several times, but the government has always won.
Responding to anger from Conservatives who want the French to foot the whole cost, Mr Sunak said: “Those are sensible investments for the UK. I think everyone knows that we are spending five and a half million pounds a day plus on hotels. We would rather not do that, and the best way to stop that is to stop people coming in the first place.
“The other thing I would say is that this is a joint problem. I think it is wrong to characterise it as ‘we are paying someone else to do something else’. This is a shared and joint endeavour to reduce illegal migration more generally, and it’s not just a challenge that the French and ourselves face, it’s a broader European challenge.”