Boris takes aim at Charles and says he will stress the ‘obvious’ merits of Rwanda migrant plan… hours before an awkward truce is declared with both sides insisting they WON’T discuss the issue in meeting tomorrow
- Boris Johnson hit out at ‘condescending’ critics of Channel migrant policy as he attended summit in Rwanda
- The PM is in Rwanda for a Commonwealth gathering and insisted that the asylum deal has ‘obvious merits’
- Mr Johnson set for a awkward meet with Prince Charles after the royal apparently branded the plan ‘appalling’
Boris Johnson today hailed the ‘obvious merits’ of his Rwanda deportation plan for migrants – but struck an uneasy truce with Prince Charles on the issue ahead of a meeting tomorrow.
The PM and the heir to the throne were facing a tricky encounter after claims he privately condemned the ‘appalling’ scheme being pushed by the government.
Mr Johnson had teed up a clash after arriving in Kigali for a Commonwealth summit this morning, swiping that critics should keep an ‘open mind’ and suggesting he would spell out his views to Charles over a cup of tea.
However, this afternoon both sides made clear that the issue is not expected to come up in the discussions after all. Instead the pair will focus on the challenges facing the alliance of nations.
Speaking during a visit to a school in the Rwandan capital earlier, 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.
Downing Street said this afternoon that the migrants policy will not be ‘at the forefront’ of Mr Johnson’s mind during the talks.
‘I’m not going to be over-prescriptive over what the PM will say in any meeting, that includes this one. The Prime Minister’s focus remains on some of the important challenges on the future of Commonwealth, on climate change, on girls’ education.’
Pressed on whether he will raise the asylum policy, he said: ‘It’s unlikely and I’m only not being categorical because it’s simply as a matter of course I do not rule in or out any topic when two individuals meet.’
The Prince of Wales toured exhibition stands today and 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 this morning that 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.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak insisted the grim figures underlined the need to be ‘responsible with the public finances’ – as unions clamour for huge pay rises to deal with the surging cost of living.
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.
‘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.
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.
Britain has made payments to Rwanda under scheme, and Kigali has started spending the money despite the policy being grounded by legal challenges.
Downing Street conceded some funds had been released, but would not set out how much or when under the ‘confidential’ agreement signed two months ago.
The payments came despite no one-way flights for migrants who arrive in the UK through unauthorised journeys taking off.
Questioned about whether payments had begun, Rwanda government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said: ‘Because that was intended to prepare for all the accommodations and and all the other institutions to you know, beef up the processes – so that’s that’s been done.’
Pressed whether any of it had already been spent, she said: ‘Part of it because we needed to get ready and we were ready to receive the first migrants on the 14th.’
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
Boris Johnson arrived in Rwanda today more 4,000 miles from the UK as the Tories brace for a double-defeat in the Wakefield and Tiverton by-elections.
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.’
No hard feelings! Camilla is greeted with a kiss from Carrie Johnson in Kigali – as their husbands face an awkward meeting after Prince Charles branded government’s Rwanda asylum policy ‘appalling’
- The Duchess of Cornwall is greeting with a kiss from Carrie Johnson in Rwanda
- The Royal made a speech at a Violence Against Women and Girls event
- Camilla looked elegant in a blue floral dress which she paired with beige pumps
- While Carrie looked bright and summery in a yellow J Crew top and pattern skirt
- Earlier, Camilla met with young children at a literary event at Kigali Library
By Ellen Coughlan
Their husbands are facing an awkward meeting after Prince Charles branded the government’s Rwanda asylum policy ‘appalling’, but there was no sign of any tension when the Duchess of Cornwall met Carrie Johnson in Kigali today.
Camilla beamed as she was greeted with a kiss on the cheek by the wife of Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday afternoon at an event for the campaign group Violence Against Women and Girls in Rwanda.
The royal wore a £269 toucan-print dress by the label Bombshell, set up by a former TV costume designer who couldn’t find clothes to fit her hourglass curves.
Carrie looked bright and summery in a yellow J Crew top which she paired with a blue and green patterned skirt, after changing out of the pink Zara suit she wore for her arrival in Kigali this morning.
The Duchess of Cornwall beamed as she shared a kiss with Carrie Johnson, wife of Prime Minister Boris Johnson at an event on Thursday in Rwanda
Camilla, 74, and Carrie Johnson, 34, attended a Violence Against Women and Girls event at the Kigali Convention Centre
As Carrie arrived at the venue she warmly greeted The Duchess with a kiss and they chatted for a few minutes before taking their seats.
Camilla looked typically elegant in a blue floral dress which was cinched at the waist with a belt.
She completed the look with beige pump shoes and accessorised with a gold coin necklace.
Earlier in the day Camilla was thought how to sign language as she joined children at a fun literary event
As Carrie arrived at the venue she warmly greeted The Duchess and they chatted for a few minutes before taking their seats
Camilla looked typically elegant in a blue floral dress which was cinched at the waist with a belt
She completed the look with beige pump shoes and accessorised with a gold coin necklace and statement chandelier earring
She added height to her frame with nude stilettos and her blonde locks were styled in bouncy curls.
Earlier in the day Camilla was thought how to sign language as she joined children at a fun literary event.
She attended the event at Kigali Public Library in her new role as patron of the charity Book Aid, which she recently took over from the Duke of Edinburgh.
She was greeted by schoolchildren who taught her how to say hello and thank you in sign language as an example of their inclusive learning.
Carrie looked bright and summery in a yellow J Crew top which she paired with a blue and green patterned skirt
The political and climate activist appeared to be in great spirits as she beamed while networking at the event
She added height to her frame with nude stilettos and her blonde locks were styled in bouncy curls
Camilla and Carrie were sat at opposite round tables but they enjoyed a warm conversation before taking their seats
The Royal made a powerful speech at the event which took place at the Kigali Convention Centre
The Royal also helped a group of visually and hearing impaired youngsters play a number game and afterwards presented them with a collection of books as a donation to the library.
The collection included short Commonwealth Essay Prize stories called A River of Stories as well as Michael Morpurgo’s There Once is a Queen.
When she arrived she immediately bent down to ask the children if they liked reading and what their favourite books were.
One little girl replied: ‘The Dirty Detective’ to which Camilla laughed: ‘My goodness me!’
Earlier in the day Camilla attended an event at Kigali Public Library in her new role as patron of the charity Book Aid, which she recently took over from the Duke of Edinburgh
She was greeted by schoolchildren who taught her how to say hello and thank you in sign language as an example of their inclusive learning
The Duchess spoke to students using sign language during the event for the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition and Book Aid International
The Duchess was joined by Jeannette Kagame, who is the wife of the President of Rwanda and young children
The Duchess toured the library’s facilities with the First Lady of Rwanda and Jeannette Kagame, Director of Kigali Public Library, who told her: ‘We like the children to think of this as a playground not just a place to come and learn.’
After viewing an exhibition of front covers and learning more about Book Aid’s International’s work in Rwanda, she was shown Nabu’s ‘Creative Lab’ for children’s book illustrators.
‘So where did you learn to draw! Have you been drawing since you were a child,’ she asked one young man who was busy tapping away on a computer.
Sweet! Camilla spoke to a group of children about their favourite books during her visit to the library
The Royal also helped a group of visually and hearing impaired youngsters play a number game and afterwards presented them with a collection of books as a donation to the library
Camilla looked in deep concentration helped a boy with a tricky number game while she was at the library
She continued: ‘I think you are very lucky to have such talent. It must be a love lot thing to do. I could sit all day doing this. It would be such fun.’
Camilla and the First Lady then visited the Children’s Corner where they met an excited group of youngsters listening to an enthusiastic reading of the Rwandan story Handa’s Surprise.
The duchess sat down with the children, smiling as they excitedly answered questions about the story and looking delighted as the children taught her how to sign.
Camilla then visited the Children’s Corner where they met an excited group of youngsters listening to an enthusiastic reading of the Rwandan story Handa’s Surprise
The duchess sat down with the children, smiling as they excitedly answered questions about the story and looking delighted as the children taught her how to sign
She laughed with a young girl in school uniform as they answered questions together about a story
Camilla, who is the Vice President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, was delighted to hear about how a record number of children from around the world had entered this year – 26,000 in all – with a 5345 per cent increase in Rwanda alone.
‘I’ve seen some of the stories and they are brilliant, absolutely amazing,’ she said as she met four of the 2021 Rwandan finalists and learnt more about its new digital innovation, Write Around the World.
Outside she got stuck into the fun with a group of excited youngsters enjoying Learning Through Play activities including an interactive ‘assault’ course.
She high-fived several of the children and laughed uproariously as they raced around the grass.
Book Aid’s work in Rwanda aims to support all in society, but especially children.
They work with a range of library and NGO partners across the country and have donated 222,224 books to them since 2017.
After viewing an exhibition of front covers and learning more about Book Aid’s International’s work in Rwanda, she was shown Nabu’s ‘Creative Lab’ for children’s book illustrators