Yvette Cooper dismisses claims migrants are sitting in France 'waiting for Labour government'

25 June 2024, 10:29 | Updated: 25 June 2024, 10:39

Yvette Cooper has dismissed claims made by James Cleverley on LBC
Yvette Cooper has dismissed claims repeated by James Cleverly on LBC. Picture: LBC

By Flaminia Luck

Yvette Cooper has dismissed claims repeated by James Cleverly that migrants in northern France are "waiting for a Labour government".

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Speaking during an immigration debate on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Mr Cleverly referred to an article claiming migrants are waiting for a Labour government before crossing the Channel after Sir Keir Starmer’s pledge to scrap the Rwanda scheme.

Nick probed the Home Secretary on this, saying: "Are voters really meant to believe that people living on sand dunes are looking at the polling of the next general election of the United Kingdom?

"Really?" he added.

In response, Mr Cleverly stated they "absolutely do".

"Unless you're going to accuse the journalist that went over there and spoke to them of lying?" he added.

He said people smugglers and those wanting to be smuggled "play very, very close attention" to a whole range of things.

"It is clear from these quotes there's a cohort of people currently in France who are waiting for Rwanda to be taken off the table before coming over here".

He added migrants had made the direct claim: "If things change I will go".

Ms Cooper countered the claims and said "people aren't waiting they're arriving".

She cited the failure of the Conservative government which had allowed "record crossings" of small boats.

"The Rwanda scheme has been running for two and a half years and all they've sent is two volunteers and three home secretaries".

It is "not working" she said.

She added Labour plans to establish a Border Security Command to "smash" criminal gangs networks that are "currently organising dangerous boat crossings that undermine security and put lives at risk".

LBC's immigration debate in full | James Cleverly vs Yvette Cooper

In the same debate, James Cleverly was accused of lying after warning that Labour's immigration policy would open the door to 100,000 migrants from Europe.

Mr Cleverly said that under Labour the UK would "inevitably mean that the UK becomes a net recipient of illegal migrants".

Ms Cooper accused him of "fantasy" and talking "total garbage", adding that "he shouldn’t be allowed to just make stuff up or tell lies".

It centred on Mr Cleverly's claim that Labour would join a migrant quota scheme with the EU, which Ms Cooper denied.

Asked by Nick how Labour would deal with illegal migrants if it scrapped the Rwanda scheme, Ms Cooper said: "We used to have the Dublin agreement, which did have some returns to Europe."

She was interrupted by Mr Cleverly, who said: "And we were a net recipient because the challenge in Europe, as I’ve said, is more stark than the challenge in the UK. It’s difficult for all of us but in continental Europe they have a larger problem."

He added: "So the arrangement that you’re talking about will inevitably mean that the UK becomes a net recipient of illegal migrants. We estimate about 100,000 additional people."

But Ms Cooper hit back, saying: "This is just invented, this is just fantasy, this is just total garbage. "Seriously, he shouldn’t be allowed to just make stuff up or tell lies. I mean that is just not on.

"Where is this 100,000, what is this? This is just garbage. It’s invented, isn’t it James?"

Mr Cleverly replied that "the simple fact of the matter is that the numbers in Europe are significantly higher in Europe and in the UK, because if we do some kind of sharing arrangement like the Dublin agreement, we will inevitably- inevitably - become a net recipient."

Read more: UK would be ‘illegal migration capital of world’ under Labour, Sunak says as he sets out plans to ‘stop the boats’

Read more: General Election LIVE: Cleverly and Cooper face off on immigration in LBC exclusive debate

Nick Ferrari challenges Yvette Cooper on whether border security proposals are 'just another squad'

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