Keir Starmer says Labour 'not keeping' Rwanda policy but won't commit to scrapping it on day one

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Getty Images)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Getty Images)

Sir Keir Starmer has assured a Labour government would abolish the Rwanda policy, but would not be drawn on when it would be scrapped.

Questioned by LBC on Wednesday, the Labour leader said the government’s new policy “doesn’t work” and that his party would instead focus on cracking down on people smuggling gangs.

“We’re not keeping the Rwanda policy in place,” he told LBC.

“It doesn’t work, it won’t work, and we don’t believe in it.”

He added that “proof” of the fact the Rwanda bill in ineffective in deterring asylum seekers can be found in the number that have reached England’s shores by small boat since it was passed.

Since the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act became law after receiving Royal Assent on Thursday, 900 migrants have made the journey in 18 boats.

This includes 268 people who arrived in the UK in five boats on Tuesday.

A record number of migrants have arrived in the UK via the Channel for the first four months of a calendar year, this year, jumping 27 per cent on 2023.

Sir Keir declined to directly answer an LBC journalist’s question, regarding whether he would abolish the policy within his first 100 days as prime minister.

“We will get rid of it because we don’t think it will work, we don’t believe in it,” he repeated.

“But we have to stop the boats, there’s no question. The government’s lost control of the borders. We will have to secure the borders and stop the boats.

“The way to do that is taking down the gangs that wear running this vile trade. That’s why I’ve already been to the Hague to talk to law enforcement partners so we can get this going on day one, because we need to secure the borders that the government’s lost control of.”

The passing of the Government’s Rwanda deportation plan through Parliament has been hailed by the Conservatives as a “landmark moment in our plan to stop the boats”.

The House of Lords had been engaged in an extended tussle over the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, sending it back to the Commons five times in a bid to secure changes, before it was finally passed.

The new law aims to clear the way to send asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats on a one-way flight to Kigali.

The legislation and a treaty with Rwanda are intended to prevent further legal challenges to the stalled scheme after the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful.

Home Secretary James Cleverly hailed the plan, saying: “The Act will prevent people from abusing the law by using false human rights claims to block removals. And it makes clear that the UK Parliament is sovereign, giving Government the power to reject interim blocking measures imposed by European courts.”

Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, Sir Keir also touched on the West Midlands mayoral election, which he said he is “hopeful” Labour will win.

“Of course, of course I’m hopeful,” he told the news outlet. “I want to win it. But I do recognise it’s a really tough ask.”

Sir Keir said he considered quitting in 2021 after a series of dismal results.

“But, actually, in the end I reflected on it, talked to very many people and doubled down,” he said.

“And to tell them, no, it’s the change in the Labour Party we need, and I do feel vindicated because we are now a changed party, nobody argues with that.”