Sunak: My family were immigrants but they were allowed here so I back Rwanda plan

21 July 2022, 19:29 | Updated: 21 July 2022, 21:21

Rishi Sunak told LBC he backs the Rwanda plan despite being from a family of immigrants
Rishi Sunak told LBC he backs the Rwanda plan despite being from a family of immigrants. Picture: Getty/LBC

By Will Taylor

Rishi Sunak has said he will ensure the plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda will work – despite his own family's background as immigrants.

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He said despite that history, the British Government at the time "decided" his grandparents should be allowed to move to the UK – in contrast to migrants making the treacherous small boat crossings over the Channel.

The ex-Chancellor is fighting for the Tory leadership and keys to No10 with Liz Truss – and must now court Tory members who will decide on their new winner by early September.

Speaking exclusively to LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, said he had been given opportunities by his relatives being allowed to move to Britain, and wanted others to enjoy those.

But that would not extend to migrants who have attempted to cross from France in their thousands under a Sunak premiership. The Government claims it will deter crossings by sending them to Rwanda.

"We need to make sure that we make our Rwanda policy work. Now, I voted for Brexit for many reasons but in part because it gave us the ability to control our borders," he told LBC on Thursday.

Rishi Sunak explains why he supports Rwanda scheme

"And I say that as someone who’s proudly from a family of immigrants."

When Andrew suggested critics would suggest he would be the "last" person to want the Rwanda plan, given his family's immigrant background, Mr Sunak said: “It’s actually the opposite.

"It's because this country did something amazing for my family, and it welcomed them as immigrants.

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"That’s part of the reason I'm standing and sitting here today with you – because of the opportunities this country gave my family. I want to repay that, I want to make sure that opportunity's available for others.

"But we do need to have control of our borders.

"When my grandparents came here, they came here because the British Government had decided that it wanted them to come here.

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"It is absolutely right that we continue as a country to decide who we want to come here, and I think it's entirely reasonable that at the same time as we welcome the best and the brightest, which is what we're now doing… we get control of our borders.

"People are seeing on their screens that boats are arriving, it shows that we haven't got a grip of it and I think the Rwanda policy gives us the opportunity to solve that.”

In a wide-ranging interview with Andrew Marr, Rishi Sunak took a swipe at foreign secretary Liz Truss – who recent polling suggests would beat him when Tory MPs submit their final votes on the pair.

Despite trying to avoid being drawn into a "blue on blue" attack with Ms Truss, following a week of public spats between the candidates, he said "all the evidence" shows she would lose to Labour at the next election.

He defended his economic policy, which has seen him postpone any tax cuts over fears it will be inflationary, as realistic and honest, while Ms Truss has pledged to cut taxes and use £30bn to allow that.

He also said "one of the first" things he would do as prime minister is appoint an independent ethics adviser - post that has been vacant since Lord Geidt dramatically resigned in June, accusing Boris Johnson of proposing a "deliberate" breach of the ministerial code.

The Government wants to stop small boat crossings by using the Rwanda scheme
The Government wants to stop small boat crossings by using the Rwanda scheme. Picture: Getty

Mr Sunak, who reiterated he voted for Brexit - compared to his rival, who backed Remain before - said leaving the European Union allowed for financial services reform and the introduction of freeports, designated economic zones with special rules that he believes could provide thousands of jobs.

He denied ever using an offshore banking trust in a tax haven and said he has had to worry about money - despite being on the Sunday Times rich list this year - because of his upbringing at his parent's pharmacy.

He also reacted to a question about whether his Ready for Rishi website domain had been registered in December, well in advance of a Tory leadership, amid reported criticism from No10 that he had stabbed Boris Johnson in the back, waiting to launch his own bid for Prime Minister.

He said domains are registered all the time and he spent December fighting against an Omicron-variant Covid lockdown, claiming the UK was "hours" away from a new shutdown.

Ultimately, a lockdown was avoided.