16 September 2023

Border security top of agenda at Montreal summit – Starmer

16 September 2023

Sir Keir Starmer said protecting the UK’s borders is an “acute security concern” as he arrived in Canada for a summit of political leaders.

The Labour leader is set to declare people smuggling, terrorism, climate change and weakening democracy the four major threats to western countries during the latest in a series of engagements on the global stage.

He is expected to warn the joint challenges make up an “axis of instability” during an appearance at a summit for “progressive” politicians in Montreal this weekend.

But speaking to broadcasters in Montreal, the Labour leader stressed border security would be at the top of his agenda during the visit.

“I’ll be talking to political leaders from across the world about shared challenges and concerns, in particular security,” he said.

“And one of the most acute security concerns in the UK right now is border security, because the Government has lost control of the borders.

“That basic rule that it ought to be the UK Government who decides who come to our shores has been conceded by the Government to criminal gangs, who are putting people in boats to go across the Channel.

“So that is the particular challenge that we face and that is why I’m setting out how we will work with international partners to smash these gangs, restore order to our borders and take a pragmatic approach – get rid of the gimmicks and the rhetoric and actually come up with a solution.”

Sir Keir will be joined by shadow foreign secretary David Lammy at the summit in Montreal ahead of an expected visit to Paris next week to meet French president Emmanuel Macron.

The flurry of international engagements has been seen as a bid to appear statesmanlike and burnish his leadership credentials ahead of a likely general election next year.

Labour officials are emphasising Sir Keir’s background as a director of public prosecutions in making the case that he could manage organised immigration crime if handed the keys to No 10.

No 10 appeared to downplay the significance of the Opposition leader’s expected Paris trip, saying it was “not unusual”.

Sir Keir could also be eyeing a White House meeting with US president Joe Biden in the coming months, whose “Bidenomics” and landmark green subsidy push has attracted admiration from Labour.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, Norway’s premier Gahr Store and Jacinda Ardern, former prime minister of New Zealand, are among other leading politicians expected at the event this weekend, where Sir Keir is to set out his foreign policy stance.

The Labour leader said climate and economic security would also be discussed at the summit.

A political row has broken out following Sir Keir’s indication that Labour would seek an EU-wide returns agreement which would involve taking a quota of migrants from the bloc.

The Tories have seized on the suggestion of closer ties to Brussels, claiming any such arrangement could lead to 100,000 EU migrants coming to the UK every year.

As well as attacks from the right, Labour faced criticism from Matt Wrack, the president of the Trades Union Congress, who told The Guardian Sir Keir was in “danger of pandering to right-wing Tory rhetoric” on immigration.

Labour dismissed the 100,000 figure as “total garbage” and insisted any partnership would focus on children with family in Britain rather than formally joining the EU’s official quota scheme.

The party said it would deepen intelligence ties with the EU and station more British police on the continent as part of efforts to “smash the criminal gangs” profiting from small boat crossings.

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