Sunak issues rallying cry on small boats crisis at critical European summit

Rishi Sunak discusses migration in Reykjavik speech

Rishi Sunak used a speech at the Council of Europe this evening to demand collective action on illegal migration, with a stark warning that failure to do so will damage citizens’ trust in both European leaders and institutions.

Mr Sunak, keen to emphasise that despite Brexit the UK will continue playing an active role in the Council, said emphatically: “The moral case for action is clear: we can’t just sit back and watch as criminal gangs profiteer on people’s misery.

“Illegal migration exploits the most vulnerable, it risks crowding out those with a genuine case for asylum and it strains the trust that our citizens have – not just in our domestic borders but in the international system.”

Mr Sunak warned leaders they all need to do more to cooperate across borders and jurisdictions to end the small boats crisis.

He added that the challenge to Western values, especially from Russia and China, is growing, adding: “The time to push back is now.”

His words came after No. 10 confirmed a new working arrangement between UK agencies and Frontex, following a meeting between the PM and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen in Reykjavík.

Downing Street said the new arrangement will enable the UK and EU “to work together on critical operational and strategic challenges including the situation in the Channel.”

No further details were announced.

Speaking in the Icelandic capital this evening, Mr Sunak said: “The council already plays a vital role, but I urge leaders to consider how we can go further. Because we know what we can achieve together.”

The Prime Minister repeatedly referenced Churchill and the former PM’s role in forging peace on the continent, concluding by quoting his words as he said: “The dangers before us are great, but great too is our strength.”

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At times, Mr Sunak seemed keen to reassure the panel of European leaders that despite Brexit, he was not planning to be a thorn in their side.

He claimed there was a “welcome new tone” in British-European relations following the signing of the Windsor Framework on Northern Ireland.

“Friends, the United Kingdom may have left the EU, but we have not left Europe,” he added.

“We remain a proud European nation and we must work together to defend the values we all hold so dear.”

He praised the Council of Europe, saying that – with its “huge reach” – it has “a vital role to play.”

“We need to think about how this council should react to the realities of today.”

Mr Sunak is expected to use his time at the Council to push for reforms to human rights, in the hope of preventing the ECHR from blocking any further flights to Rwanda.

Speaking ahead of the council meeting, the PM vowed “not to rest until we can stop the boats.”

He added: “We want to make sure that the European Court is always conducting itself in a way which is fair, which is effective, which is transparent.”

The UK is approaching the first anniversary of signing the costly deportation accord with Rwanda, and is yet to send a single migrant.

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