A Tory MP accused the government of losing “control of the Channel” and said working-class Brexit voters “did not vote to replace immigration from Europe with more immigration from the rest of the world.”
During yesterday’s PMQs Conservative MP for Gainsborough Sir Edward Leigh also said the government should not be “held to ransom” over loosened immigration rules in a trade deal with India.
But speaking in the House of Commons, Boris Johnson ruled out relaxing immigration rules in a bid to tempt India to sign a free trade agreement.
Leigh said: “Apparently the Government is thinking of relaxing visa controls from India in order to get a free trade deal.
“Whilst a free trade deal is valuable in itself we should not be held to ransom.
“Would he agree with me that our new working-class voters who voted Brexit did not vote to replace immigration from Europe with more immigration from the rest of the world, anymore than when they were told that they would take back control, we would lose control of the Channel?”
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Sir Edward’s remarks on the Channel follow the publication of numbers from the BBC which estimate that at least 28,431 people made the dangerous journey last year – treble the number for 2020.
Sir Edward went on to ask Johnson if he’s “willing to connect to our supporters” and control immigration.
Answering, Johnson said “yes”, before adding: “I don’t recognise the account he has given at all.”
The prime minister said “we don’t do free trade deals on that basis” and insisted that net immigration has reduced since his party took control.
He added that the Borders Bill, currently in the House of Lords, would allow the UK to “take back control of our borders” and tackle illegal immigration.
The controversial bill could mean that British people could be stripped of their citizenship without notice. A petition calling for this clause to be removed from the bill has garnered over 310,000 signatures, and protesters yesterday gathered outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday to call for the “racist” legislation to be binned.
Talks with India over a trade agreement are due to begin within the next few weeks as international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan is expected to travel to Delhi.
The Times reports that one option being considered to tempt India into signing a free trade agreement is similar to a scheme with Australia, where young people can work in the UK for up to three years. It’s been reported that another option on the table could see reduced fees for Indian students and permission to stay in Britain for a longer period after they graduate.
The newspaper also said that although Trevelyan has the backing of foreign secretary Liz Truss, while home secretary Priti Patel is said to oppose the offer.