Keir Starmer‘s plan to tackle illegal immigration has unravelled still further after he backtracked on taking asylum-seekers from the EU.
Labour’s leader confirmed last week that his proposal to seek an EU-wide returns deal would mean the UK accepting some arrivals from the Continent.
Asked if he accepted the ‘quid pro quo’ of migrant quotas in exchange for an agreement, he told The Times on Thursday: ‘That would be part of any discussions and negotiations with Europe.’
But in an interview yesterday, Sir Keir said it was ‘complete nonsense’ to suggest that a Labour government would join the Europe-wide transfer scheme, which the Conservatives say would mean as many as 100,000 people a year being sent to Britain.
He told Sky News: ‘Let me be absolutely crystal clear about this, because the Government has been pumping out complete garbage this week in terms of the numbers that they are suggesting.
Keir Starmer (pictured on Saturday) confirmed last week that his proposal to seek an EU-wide returns deal would mean the UK accepting some arrivals from the Continent
Uncertain future: Migrants at the crowded reception centre on Lampedusa yesterday
‘There is obviously an EU quota system for EU members. Well, it’s obvious we are not an EU member. We will not be part of that. We are not an EU member. This is why what the Government’s saying, it’s been complete garbage.
‘Even that scheme within the EU is not working. I’ve been discussing that with EU leaders up here. That scheme itself isn’t really working very well.
‘So the idea that we’re going to join the EU scheme on quotas is complete nonsense. We’re not an EU member and that wasn’t what I was talking about.’
He suggested that informal agreements could be struck instead.
But Tory chairman Greg Hands said: ‘Labour’s policy announcement on Thursday is now ‘complete nonsense’ by Sunday. You can’t trust a word Sir Keir says.’
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick MP added: ‘Sir Keir Starmer’s immigration policy is completely falling apart. The only certainty is his short-term fix would mean 100,000 more illegal migrants in Britain every year.
‘Starmer doesn’t have the backbone to be honest about his real position as soon as he comes under political pressure. He’s still refusing to rule out a bespoke EU deal in which he’d open the door to Europe’s illegal migrants. He’s taking the British people for fools if he thinks they can’t see through him.’
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick MP (pictured last week) added: ‘Sir Keir Starmer’s immigration policy is completely falling apart. The only certainty is his short-term fix would mean 100,000 more illegal migrants in Britain every year’
The latest blow to Sir Keir’s plan, which he announced on a high-profile trip to Europol in The Hague, comes after Brussels diplomats briefed that he was ‘deluded’ if he thought the EU would agree a new returns deal with the UK.
In another setback yesterday, a frontbench Labour MP refused four times to put a limit on the number of migrants the party would accept from the Continent.
Asked repeatedly for a clear answer, Pat McFadden told the BBC: ‘I don’t think it’s going to be an allocation of numbers.’ He tried to avoid the question on GB News, insisting: ‘We have no returns agreement like that at all.
‘So the counterfactual to sitting down and talking about some limited specific cases is we don’t return anyone. We have a growing backlog and a massive cost to the taxpayer. That’s the situation, the failing situation, right now.’