Sunak Uses Illegal Migration to Distract from Mass Legal Migration

OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has suggested he believes he can get away with increasing mass legal immigration if he can convince the public he is tackling illegal immigration.

Delivering a speech to anti-Brexit bosses’ club the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) — which he alleged was “a valued institution in this country” despite its long history of bad calls — the newly-minted Prime Minister told his audience, much of it ravenous for already record levels of immigration to be further increased, supposedly in the name of filling shortages in the labour market, that “[p]art of the reason we ended Free Movement of Labour [with the European Union] was to rebuild public consent in our immigration system.”

“If we’re going to have a system that allows businesses to access the best and brightest from around the world we need to do more to give the British people trust and confidence that the system works and is fair,” he went on explaining what would need to be done in order to appease people about continued mass migration despite its deep unpopularity.

“That means tackling illegal migration,” he added — then moved swiftly on to topics less likely to rile a Conservative Party membership that didn’t even vote for him.

He was dragged back to the subject in the Q&A, however, with the BBC pressing him on the fact that big businesses “are saying we need looser immigration rules” — perhaps because more immigration generally means they can pay people less money — and asking whether he would sate their hunger for foreign labour.


“I think the country’s number one priority right now when it comes to migration is tackling illegal migration; it’s stopping people coming here illegally on small boats across the Channel — because when people see that happening it undermines trust in the system,” Sunak replied, strongly implying that he would indeed be willing to give bosses what they want on mass immigration, while emphasising his efforts, real or pretended, to do something about the much smaller inflows of illegal immigration as a distraction.

“It doesn’t seem fair that people are able to break the rules — and that’s what I’m absolutely determined to fix,” Sunak added — although even here he reiterated the government’s old lines the boats crisis is “not a simple problem to solve” and “we can’t solve it overnight”.

He claimed he was already making progress on the issue — although numbers are not actually coming down — and that his “conversations with President [Emmanuel] Macron enabled us to conclude a new deal with the French” to try and deal with the issue.

Previous deals, which like the current one will see the British taxpayer shaken down for millions of pounds to try and get the French to stop their country from being used as a launchpad to Britain, have all failed to bring the numbers down, and the government has refused to say whether it thinks this latest one will do so.

Nevertheless, Sunak argued that so long as the public can be convinced he is trying to do something about illegals, his government can be “unapologetic about wanting to deliver an immigration system that’s competitive” — code for a system that gives bosses all the cheap labour they want, without the inconvenience of having to upskill the native workforce or offer better pay and conditions to attract and retain employees.

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