Sunak to press EU leaders on migration after small boats bill backlash

Rishi Sunak will urge world leaders to tackle illegal migration as he embarks on a round of international diplomacy next week.

Days after the Archbishop of Canterbury condemned his plan to deport anyone who arrives on a small boat to Rwanda, the prime minister will use meetings at the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik to discuss the importance of strengthening the bloc’s borders, Downing Street has announced.

He will stress “collective” efforts are necessary to tackle illegal migration as well as the threat posed by Russia in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

“Many of the challenges we are dealing with, from inflation to migration, must be solved by working closely with our international partners,” he said.

The visit will come days before Mr Sunak heads to Japan for a bilateral meeting in Tokyo and a G7 gathering in Hiroshima.

Mr Sunak’s appeal for international co-operation on illegal migration comes as he faces increasing pressure domestically over his attempts to stop people coming to the UK on small boats across the channel.

Senior figures, including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and the former head of the British Army Lord Dannatt, have backed The Independent’s campaign against the threatened deportation to Rwanda of an Afghan war hero who arrived in the UK on a small boat.

The pilot. who worked alongside British Forces in Afghanistan has said he was forced to flee in this way because there were no other safe and legal routes to come here.

Earlier this week, Archbishop Welby denounced Mr Sunak’s plan to tackle illegal immigration, which would see even children and victims of modern slavery deported to Rwanda if they arrive here illegally, as “morally unacceptable and politically impractical”.

His comments came as the House of Lords began debating the government’s small boats bill, as ministers expect to face a battle to prevent peers from trying to water down key measures of the plan.

Economic growth is also set to feature in the prime minister’s discussions at the summit, as he promised to “drive global action on our most pressing priorities”.

His next stop will be Tokyo, where he is expected to announce a new UK-Japan collaboration on defence and technology.

Mr Sunak said: “Many of the challenges we are dealing with, from inflation to migration, must be solved by working closely with our international partners.

“I look forward to visiting Japan, a vital economic and defence partner for the UK in the Indo-Pacific.

“This year’s G7 Summit in Hiroshima comes at a pivotal moment, as Ukraine doubles down in its fight for survival and we deal with complex threats to global peace and prosperity.”

Mr Sunak will become the first British prime minister to visit Hiroshima when he attends the G7 summit, where is he also expected to hold a number of bilateral meetings with other world leaders.

The trip to Japan comes months after Mr Sunak hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in London in January, when the two countries signed a significant defence agreement.

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