Boris Johnson allies hit back at Rishi Sunak after he suggested the former PM was responsible for soaring immigration
Allies of Boris Johnson hit back angrily at Rishi Sunak last night after the Prime Minister suggested his predecessor was responsible for soaring immigration.
Mr Sunak yesterday implied he was not responsible for immigration levels he ‘inherited’ from Mr Johnson and Liz Truss, and said he had already taken ‘significant action’ to bring down numbers in future.
But a senior ally of Mr Johnson said Mr Sunak had shown ‘no interest’ in controlling immigration during his years as Chancellor.
The source said that the PM had also opposed Mr Johnson’s flagship Rwanda scheme ‘on both cost and ethical grounds’ when he was at the Treasury.
‘During his time as Chancellor, Sunak saw immigration as a way of addressing skills shortages and holding down prices – the Treasury were obsessed with keeping a lid on wage inflation and saw cheap immigration as a way of achieving that,’ the source said.
Rishi Sunak yesterday implied he was not responsible for high immigration levels after saying he ‘inherited’ them from Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. Pictured: The Prime Minister at a festive market outside 10 Downing Street on Thursday, November 30
Allies of Boris Johnson have hit back at the Prime Minister, saying he had ‘no interest’ in controlling migration when he was chancellor. Pictured: Mr Johnson leaving 10 Downing Street in July 2022
‘He had no objections to the policy then and it is a bit rich for him now to be trying to blame someone else.
‘When the records of the last government are eventually published they will also show that he tried to strangle the Rwanda scheme at birth.
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‘I don’t know why he keeps taking these swipes at Boris – it is not helping the Conservative Party and people are getting sick of his revisionism.’
No10 defended the PM’s comments saying it was ‘just factual’ that ‘numbers were large when he became Prime Minister’.
Mr Sunak has come under intense pressure to strengthen Britain’s borders after figures this month showed net immigration hit a record 745,000 last year – three times the level at the 2019 election when the Conservative manifesto pledged to bring it down.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Guildford, the PM suggested he was not responsible for the current crisis.
‘The levels of legal migration to this country are simply too high,’ he said. ‘I’ve inherited these very large numbers and I’m determined to do what is necessary to bring them back down to sustainable levels.’
But one MP ally of the former Home Secretary said Mr Sunak had ‘sat on’ proposals for curbing immigration levels for a year.
‘He can’t duck responsibility for this,’ the source said. ‘Suella and others have been telling him since he became PM that he needed to act and he chose not to. The fact immigration is still so high is on him.’
Official figures published last week showed net migration to Britain reached a record 745,000 last year, which has prompted calls for new restrictions among Tory MPs
The PM said he had taken ‘significant action’ to curb arrivals, including raising visa fees by 35 per cent and drawing up plans to clamp down on the right of postgraduate students to bring their families with them – a move that will come into force next month.
He is now looking at a package of options drawn up by Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick.
These include raising the minimum salary threshold for migrant visas from £26,200 to more than £30,000; limiting the right of foreign health and social care workers to bring dependants to this country; placing caps on certain sectors or on total immigration levels; and ending the controversial shortage occupation list which allow employers to pay foreign workers 20 per cent less than the going rate in certain sectors, including social care.
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