Rishi Sunak today failed to commit to fulfilling a promise to ‘stop the boats’ by the time of the next General Election.
The Prime Minister admitted his aim of preventing migrants from crossing the Channel in dinghies ‘won’t happen overnight’.
He also conceded he was expecting a legal challenge from European judges over the Government’s proposed new laws on toughening Britain’s asylum system.
Close to 5,000 people have made the treacherous journey across the Channel to reach the UK already this year.
This compares to more than 45,000 who made the perilous crossing last year, which prompted Mr Sunak to step up action to solve the crisis.
At the beginning of this year, the PM vowed to ‘stop the boats’ as one of his five main priorities.
Senior Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden subsequently said the Government was committed to stopping small boat crossings by the end of the current Parliament.
Mr Dowden, a close ally of Mr Sunak, added ministers were ‘working’ towards fulfilling the PM’s promise by the time of the next election.
But, in an interview with the ConservativeHome website this afternoon, the PM dodged making the same commitment himself.
Asked if he would meet his pledge to ‘stop the boats’ by the time the country next goes to the polls, Mr Sunak replied: ‘I’ve always said this is not something that is easy – it is a complicated problem where there’s no single, simple solution that will fix it and I’ve also said it won’t happen overnight.
‘I’ve been very clear about that. People should know it’s very important to me, it’s hugely important to the country that we need to fix the system, as a matter of fairness.
‘It’s not fair that people are breaking the rules and coming here illegally.’
Mr Sunak said Britain is a ‘welcoming and compassionate’ country but that resources need to be targeted on the people who most need it.
In his efforts to solve the small boats crisis, Mr Sunak has signed an agreement with Albania to make it easier to return migrants who come from the Balkan country.
Read More: Rishi Sunak backtracks on promise to ‘stop the boats’ by the next general election