PM says new immigration bill is ‘tough but necessary’
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Rishi Sunak suggested Gary Lineker is out of touch with the British public after the football pundit compared the small boats crackdown to Nazi Germany. The Prime Minister insisted there is a “lot of strong support” for the plans to ban anyone entering the country illegally from applying for asylum.
Asked what he thought about the Match of the Day host’s slur by journalists ahead of a summit with Emmanuel Macron today, Mr Sunak said: “I strongly believe that what we’re doing is the right thing to do. I think it’s the fair thing to do and I actually believe that it’s the moral and compassionate thing to do, and I’ve made that argument multiple times.
“I’ll continue to make it and I think actually the more people think about this challenge and how best to address it they will see that it is the right approach.
“And actually I was pleased that there was generally, actually quite a lot of strong support for the approach we’ve outlined now that we’ve outlined it, because this is about thinking what’s the best way to help the world’s most vulnerable people, which is something that the British public have demonstrated time and time again that they want to do, and no one can say that that’s not the case.”
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He went on: “Over the last few years half a million people have been welcomed to the UK from Syria, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine and it’s right that we’re able to help the world’s most vulnerable people, that’s what everyone wants to do and that’s what I want to do and we’re not going to be able to do that if we persist with a system that’s overwhelmed by people coming here illegally who are not the most vulnerable.
“There’s nothing compassionate about that, especially if some of them are dying in the process, so that’s why I think what we’re doing is right. The situation is getting worse and worse and that’s what I believe. We have to act and this is the right thing to do.”
The Prime Minister added he has looked at the issue “long and hard” and is confident the policy is the right one. “I hope everyone over time realises that this is the right approach because we’ve looked at lots of different things, tried lots of other ways, as I’ve said, and nothing else has worked,” he said.
“And having looked at this long and hard myself, I’m confident this is the best and right approach to solve this problem, which I think everyone acknowledges is a challenge and it’s one of my five priorities because I think it’s undoubtedly something that the country thinks is important and needs resolving.
“The question is how do you resolve it in a way that’s fair, compassionate and can resolve it and that’s what I think our approach does.”
Lineker is clinging on as the BBC’s best paid presenter at £1.35 million a year despite a furious backlash over his comments.
BBC staff are bound by strict impartiality rules that prevent them from making political attacks.
Corporation bosses are under pressure to take action against Lineker, who is a freelance broadcaster but the BBC’s top paid star for the fifth year in a row, after his attack on the government.
The row was sparked by Lineker’s response on Twitter to a Home Office video unveiling the Government’s plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats.
The ex-England striker wrote: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.
“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.”
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Lineker needs to study the “history books” after comparing language around the Government’s asylum policy to 1930s Germany.
He told LBC radio: “There are some people desperate to gain attention by using deeply offensive and inappropriate language about this and I would gently suggest they use their history books a little bit more carefully.”
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