Chris Mason: Ministers in new bid to cut immigration

  • By Chris Mason
  • Political Editor, BBC News

On migration policy, the government faces an obvious, significant and emotional failure.

A failure against its own promises and goals.

So this week their focus is on trying to do something.

First, legal net migration.

It is now three times higher than it was when the Conservatives won the last election and promised it would fall.

No wonder many Tory MPs are desperate to see it go down.

Second, illegal migration. The Prime Minister has promised to stop the boats.

The number is down from last year, but still high – and the government’s plan to send some to Rwanda has caught up in several courts.

So expect two days of the latest iterations of the government’s migration plans before Boris Johnson does what he does best – the spotlight – at the Covid hearings on Wednesday and Thursday.

First, on Monday afternoon, plans for legal immigration — and getting the numbers here.

I say that relations between the Home Office and Downing Street have improved significantly since the sacking of former Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

Over the past few weeks the Prime Minister has worked with new Home Secretary James Smart and Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick to come up with a plan.

Robert Jenrick had presented a proposal to Rishi Sunak – the details of which I wrote here 10 days ago.

We can measure what the government announces against this wishlist – I hear the announcement and being invited personally may be the same.

We can also measure the government’s plan against what Suella Braverman, who called the government, said.

The key question is whether reducing the numbers will make any difference.

Next, on Tuesday, the Rwanda project.

It seems James would be wise to travel to Rwanda to sign a deal.

Then, on Wednesday, a proposed new law to that effect will be introduced in the House of Commons.

Incidentally, I discovered that the Home Office was skeptical about withdrawing from the Rwanda project or somehow exempting it from the UK’s commitments to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The argument goes that membership of the ECHR and the UK is useful for the bits of illegal migration policy that actually work: the agreement with Albania, the cooperation with France.

But many Conservative backbenchers are fed up with the European conference and are desperate to remove any obstacles to the Rwanda project.

When we step back from the details of this, again the key question is the same as with legal migration: How soon will this change?

Ministers say they are committed to flying migrants to Rwanda in the spring.

Many within the Conservative Party and beyond think that is unlikely.

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