The in-tray for the new Prime Minister when they enter Downing Street next week is incredibly daunting – with the cost of living, the war in Ukraine, and supporting the NHS, the list goes on and on.
One issue that is definitely right up there in terms of importance, and one I continue to hear from constituents about, is the small boat crossings. The status quo – where we continue to see thousands upon thousands turning up illegally on our shores – is rightly something the majority of people across the country find intolerable and even infuriating. I know I definitely do.
My record on this issue is what it is. Formally, when you look at the Parliamentary records you’ll have a job finding an MP who has raised the issue as many times as I’ve done. Informally, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve impressed upon the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and whoever else will listen in Government how urgent the need is to get a firm grip on this issue.
However despite the introduction of the Nationality and Borders Bill and the Rwanda scheme we’re still seeing the problem go from bad to worse.
When weighing up who to back as the new leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of this country, this is an issue I put to all of them. It’s one of the reasons why I backed Liz Truss over Rishi Sunak in the final two. Ultimately, bearing in mind the conversations I had with her, I felt she was more likely to grip the issue and do what was necessary.
She was absolutely clear when I spoke to her that leaving the European Convention of Human Rights should be on the table if it’s the only way of solving the issue. I agree with her that this will, more than likely not, be necessary – and it certainly shouldn’t be something we reach for immediately, but it really does need to be an option if we can’t resolve the issue imminently through introducing a new British Bill of Rights. And I mean imminently.
I also agree with her stance that the Rwanda scheme should be extended and deals should be struck with other countries on a similar basis.
I do however agree with Rishi Sunak that there is a case for a narrower definition of who qualifies for asylum in this country than the one offered by the European Convention of Human Rights. I imagine that this is something being seriously considered by Liz Truss also.
Ultimately though, a comprehensive solution can’t wait and time is of the essence.
I continue to be of the view that the majority of those who illegally enter our country via the channel crossing route are economic migrants, not refugees. This was given further credence only weeks ago, with the revelation that almost half of all those arriving on our shores by this route actually come from a single country: Albania.
Now, Albania clearly isn’t as economically advanced as the UK, but fundamentally present-day Albania is a safe European country. It’s even in line for EU membership. And how many other safe European countries have these overwhelmingly young, male migrants journeyed through before they get to our shores?
I completely understand why these individuals may want to move to the UK but ultimately if they wish to come here they should look to do so legally through our visas and immigration system – not arriving here illegally and launching bogus asylum claims.
That we have thus far been unable to decisively bring an end to this farce is incredibly dispiriting and depressing, and I fully share the anger felt by a great many of my constituents.
The cost of accommodation alone, for the thousands of people who are arriving here illegally, is now in the billions. Unless we nip it in the bud now, it will increasingly place pressure on our public services and undermine our ability to accommodate genuine refugees. Enough is enough. The next Prime Minister and Government must put tackling this issue urgently on their priority list.
It goes without saying that unless the Conservative Government makes significant progress on this issue before the next General Election, it will pay a significant price.
It simply isn’t enough for us to go into an election saying it would be even worse with Labour and their likely left-wing coalition partners who tend to be sympathetic to an open borders attitude.
I do note however that my Labour Party opponent at the next General Election seems to take a very different view on this issue than myself. In fact, it appears that in the past he’s made visits to the camps in France where many of the individuals in question are based before seeking illegal entry into our country. Who knows what he was looking to achieve through such a visit.