Rishi Sunak admits no Rwanda flights will take off earlier than General Election

Deportation flights carrying asylum seekers to Rwanda will not take off until after the general election on July 4, Rishi Sunak has admitted.

The PM made the embarrassing concession on the first day of the election campaign after he gambled his political future on an early election in a surprise move on Wednesday.

As he toured broadcast studios, the Tory leader boasted: “If I’m elected, we will get the flights off.” But pressed on the timing by LBC, he admitted: “No, after the election. The preparation work has already gone on”.

Mr Sunak’s comment also means a deportation flight may never take off to Rwanda as Keir Starmer has vowed to scrap the multi-million pound deal if he wins the election. Labour will instead create a new Cross Border Police Unit to tackle small boat crossings.

The Rwanda plan is a flagship offering of Mr Sunak’s failed promise last year to “stop the boats” crossing the Channel. Home Office figures released yesterday showed 9,882 people reached the UK using the dangerous crossing so far in 2024 – up from 7,297 in the same period last year.

Responding to the PM’s comments, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The Prime Minister’s own words this morning show this whole Rwanda scheme has been a con from start to finish.

“With all the hundreds of millions they have spent, it would be extraordinary if ‘symbolic flights’ didn’t take off in early July, as the Tories planned. But Rishi Sunak’s words confirm what we’ve known all along – he doesn’t believe this plan will work and that’s why he called the election now in the desperate hope that he won’t be found out.

“The choice at this election is between a Tory Party with no credible plan and no grip, and a Labour government that will deliver a fully funded Border Security Command to smash criminal gangs and tackle dangerous boat crossings. It’s time to turn the page on Tory chaos and choose a Labour government that will restore our border security.”

Mr Sunak was also unable to guarantee today that infected blood victims would get compensation authorised or that Martyn’s Law and the Renters’ Reform Bill would be passed before Parliament is prorogued ahead of the General Election.

On infected blood payments, Rishi Sunak told LBC: “It’s because it requires a conversation with parties across Parliament, that’s why. But I will do absolutely everything in my power to make sure that we do get that through.” It is highly likely the measure will pass through Parliament – as it has cross-party support – but more controversial measures such as renters’ reform, are now likely to be dead in the water.