Boris Johnson today vowed to tell Prince Charles to keep an ‘open mind’ about his Channel migrant deportation plan as he swiped at ‘condescending’ critics.
The PM said he would stress the ‘obvious merits’ of the scheme when they meet for tea tomorrow.
Mr Johnson was greeted by President Paul Kagame as he arrived for the Commonwealth gathering in Kigali, before visiting a nearby school. No10 said the leaders hailed the migrants agreement during their talks.
But he is bracing for what could be an awkward meeting with Prince Charles after claims that the heir to the throne has privately condemned the ‘appalling’ scheme for sending migrants to Rwanda.
Mr Johnson said he will stress the ‘obvious merits’ of his Rwanda asylum policy to the royal.
Speaking during a visit to a school in the Rwandan capital, the Prime Minister said: ‘I am delighted that Prince Charles and everybody is here today to see a country that has undergone a complete, or a very substantial transformation.’
Asked if he will defend the deportation strategy in his meeting with Charles, Mr Johnson said: ‘People need to keep an open mind about the policy, the critics need to keep an open mind about the policy. A lot of people can see its obvious merits. So yeah, of course, if I am seeing the prince tomorrow, I am going to be making that point.’
The PM was greeted by President Paul Kagame as he arrived for the Commonwealth gathering in Kigali, before visiting a nearby school
The Prince of Wales toured exhibition stands today chatted to delegates during a visit to the Commonwealth Business Forum Exhibition in Rwanda
Mr Johnson and Mr Kagame had a warm handshake before talks this morning
The Duchess of Cornwall and Carrie Johnson greeted each other warmly at a Commonwealth summit event discussing violence against women and girls
What is the Rwanda migrant deal?
The UK and Rwanda have struck a deal for asylum seekers to be sent to the African country.
Under the agreement, they are expected to be flown to a private terminal at Kigali’s international airport, and taken straight to accommodation at Hope Hostel.
That facility can only sleep around 100 people, although plans for expansion could see another block built on the site.
Within 24 hours of arrival, migrants will get a three-month residency in Rwanda while their immigration status is decided.
The new arrivals will not need to submit an asylum claim, but those who do will have this considered in the first instance.
Anyone without an asylum claim, or one that is rejected, will then be considered under wider immigration rules with a view to provide a right to residency and to work.
The Rwandan government says it has boosted staff numbers and resources to make the process as efficient as possible and hopes to consider claims within three months.
While their immigration status is determined, migrants will take part in an ‘orientation’ programme to help them adjust to their new life in Rwanda – if they choose to stay – with information about the country such as the weather and geography as well as a tour of the area. Food and accommodation will be provided and paid for.
Migrants will also be given a monthly allowance of 100,000RWF a month (roughly £90) to help pay for essentials. Meanwhile they will be given access to language classes and translation services as well as legal advice.
The Prince of Wales toured exhibition stands today chatted to delegates during a visit to the Commonwealth Business Forum Exhibition in Rwanda.
Charles was joined by Clare Akamanzi, chief executive officer of the Rwanda Development Board, and Jeremy Cross, Prince’s Foundation international director, as he was guided round the Kigali Cultural Exhibition Village.
Mr Johnson said he had spoken to the Rwandan president about the UK’s controversial asylum policy: ‘I just had a great talk with Paul Kagame.
‘He cares passionately about this. He has himself been a refugee for a long time. He knows what it is like. He sees the problem of vulnerable people being trafficked across the Channel and being trafficked around the world.
‘He sees this as an opportunity to fix what is an increasing global problem, by a partnership between the UK and Rwanda.
‘It is not just about migration.
He continued: ‘It is about education, it is about trade, it is about all sorts of things, it is about green technology, financial services, all sorts of areas. It is a partnership that is growing.’
To critics of the policy, Mr Johnson accused them of basing their concerns on ‘a perception, perhaps a stereotype of Rwanda that is now outdated’.
He stressed that the policy had not been ruled unlawful in any UK court nor in Strasbourg.
‘We are just going to keep going,’ he said.
He urged those with concerns to ‘think about the way these two countries can work together to solve what is a very complex problem of illegal people-trafficking’.
Downing Street said Mr Johnson and Mr Kagame agreed that the stalled asylum policy can help tackle smuggling gangs.
A No 10 spokesman said: ‘The leaders also praised the successful UK-Rwanda migration and economic development partnership, which is tackling dangerous smuggling gangs while offering people a chance to build a new life in a safe country.’
Mr Johnson was also grilled on the Rwanda policy as he prepared to fly to Kigali, and said the trip is an opportunity ‘for us all to understand for ourselves what that partnership has to offer’.
He said it might ‘help others to shed some of their condescending attitudes to Rwanda and how that partnership might work’.
Pushed on whether he will tell the prince he is wrong, Mr Johnson said: ‘I have no evidence for the assertion you’ve just made about the prince’s comments. I can’t confirm that.
UK borrows another £14bn as debt interest soars
The government borrowed another £14billion in May despite the rising tax burden, as inflation sent interest payments soaring.
The costs of servicing the near-£2.4trillion debt mountain surged to £7.6billion, a record for the month.
That helped offset the increase in income for the government from higher taxes.
There are worrying signs that the economy is on the verge of slipping into recession as the Ukraine crisis and Covid aftermath bites.
‘What I can say is that the policy is sensible, measured and a plan to deal with the grotesque abuse of innocent people crossing the Channel.’
Mr Johnson is not intending to visit the accommodation in Kigali where migrants who arrive by unauthorised means would be deported to.
‘You will know that the Prime Minister’s time is always limited and to make time to do that he would therefore have to leave elements of the programme whereby he’s working with a unique set of world leaders on quite crucial issues,’ his spokesman said.
‘We think that the best use of his time for this short period he’s in Rwanda is to dedicate himself to some of the issues that will be raised at the summit and to work with other world leaders on some of those issues we’ve talked about, not least Ukraine and global security.’
The first flight removing people to Rwanda was due to take off last week, but was grounded by successful legal challenges ahead of a full hearing on the scheme’s legality in UK courts.
The policy is one element of a £120million economic deal with Kigali, but has been widely criticised in part because of concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record.
Mr Johnson noted that he would be arriving there before any asylum seekers despite the agreement being signed two months ago.
‘I’m conscious that I’m arriving before anybody who has travelled illegally across the Channel, I cannot conceal that fact from you – there it is – but it is still the case that no UK court and no international court has ruled our plan unlawful,’ he said.
Boris Johnson is in Kigali with wife Carrie for a Commonwealth meeting – and will be on tour abroad for the next week
Boris faces double by-election defeat in Wakefield and Tiverton TODAY that could spark new Tory revolt
The PM is in Kigali with wife Carrie for a Commonwealth meeting – and will be on tour abroad for the next week.
But there are fears the by-elections could spark a renewed Conservative revolt, if as expected the government fails to defend them both for the first time since the dying days of John Major’s time in No10.
Ministers have already been rehearsing arguments about how difficult it is for governments to hold by-elections in mid-term. But limiting the scale of the setbacks is considered critical for Mr Johnson.
Wakefield was a prize ‘Red Wall’ scalp when taken by Imran Ahmad Khan in 2019 with a majority of 3,358. It was the first time since 1931 that the Tories had won there.
But Mr Ahmed Khan is now in prison, having been jailed for a sex assault on a teenage boy.
A polling station in Wakefield, where one of the by-elections is being held today
Where are by-elections happening today?
Wakefield was one of the so-called Red Wall seats won by the Tories in the 2019 general election after being a Labour stronghold since the 1930s, but Labour is now hoping to take it back.
Imran Ahmad Khan had a 3,300 majority but stood down as the local MP after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy and jailed for 18 months.
TIVERTON & HONITON
Neil Parish, the Tory MP since 2010, resigned from the Devon seat after admitting he had watched pornography on his phone in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Democrats are the main challenger in this rural constituency, and are hoping to build on by-election wins in North Shropshire in December and Chesham and Amersham a year ago.
Victory for the Lib Dems would require overturning a 24,239 majority, but Conservatives fear a defeat is all-but inevitable as voters deliver a mid-term message.
A poll by Survation for the 38 Degrees website two weeks ago – around the time of the vote of no confidence against Mr Johnson – put Labour on 56 per cent in the West Yorkshire seat, with the Tories on 33 per cent.
Mr Johnson has not visited the constituency during the campaign, although Keir Starmer was there at the weekend.
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey has urged Tiverton & Honiton voters to ‘speak for Britain’ and overturn a 24,000 Tory majority – which is up for grabs after being vacated by ‘tractor porn’ MP Neil Parish.
A Labour source who has been campaigning in Wakefield told MailOnline earlier this week: ‘It’s not going to be a 20-point victory. But they have done the work, it is definitely a win.
‘A 3,000 to 4,000 majority is what I would anticipate.’
‘The Lib Dems haven’t done anything. The Greens have sent out a leaflet.
‘There were some people I spoke to who said they would be voting Green… nobody mentioned Brexit, which is a good sign. But two people mentioned Corbyn.’
A senior Tory who has been campaigning in both Wakefield and Tiverton agreed that ‘Labour will win in Wakefield’.
‘There is no question about that. The Boris factor is playing,’ they told MailOnline.
‘Having said that, the Tories have got the message across about the Labour candidate being an outsider and there is no love of Labour.
‘They will win because enough people are disaffected in a constituency that has never been Conservative since before the Second World War.’