Rishi Sunak has seized upon Boris Johnson attack line by dismissing Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as “just another lefty lawyer”.
Top law bodies had condemned Mr Johnson’s repeated ambushes on “lefty human rights lawyers” – arguing that he was putting legal professionals at risk of physical violence.
The current Tory prime minister repeated the rhetoric at PMQs, as he defended his plan to ban asylum claims from those arriving on small boats and push for deportation.
Mr Sunak said Mr Starmer has been “on the wrong side of this issue his entire career”, adding. “He talked about his legal background – he’s just another lefty lawyer standing in our way.”
Sir Keir said the “nonsense” attack was the PM’s attempt to hide Tory failure to crackdown on people smugglers or fulfil previous promises to cut crossings in the English Channel.
The Labour leader said Mr Sunak has “lost control of our borders”, urging the PM to “steal” Labour’s plan to tackle trafficking gangs and “sort out the mess”.
Mr Sunak accused Sir Keir of being “in hoc to the open borders activists” and claimed the Tories were “on the side of the British people” when it came to small boat migrants.
The Labour leader said: “If he was serious about stopping the boats, he’d actually steal our plan on stopping the boats, smash the gangs, sort out the returns and clean up the utter mess.”
He added: “Nobody on this side of the House wants open borders. On that side they’ve lost control of the border.”
Mr Sunak did not say when he would stop small boat crossings when challenged by Mr Starmer, but said his plan would be implemented as soon as it passes through parliament.
Sir Keir accused the government’s asylum plan of driving a “coach and horses” through the country’s modern slavery framework as he referenced International Women’s Day.
Asked by SNP leader Stephen Flynn if it was correct that a woman sex trafficked arriving on a small boat would be denied asylum, the PM said: “It is precisely because we want to target our resources and our compassion on the world’s most vulnerable people that we need to get a grip on this system.”
Home secretary is ‘spot on’ when says ‘Tories all talk and no action’, Starmer claims
More than 800 senior legal figures accused Mr Johnson and previous home secretary Priti Patel of endangering the safety of lawyers – after the part had attacked lawyers defending migrants as “lefties” and “do-gooders”.
The Law Society and the Bar Council also accused them of undermining and “demonising” people carrying out a vital public service.
Home secretary Suella Braverman was earlier accused of using the “language of extremists” as she claimed the small boats plan was backed by the “law-abiding patriotic majority”.
On ITV she defended her controversial claim to MPs that “there are 100 million people around the world” who could qualify for asylum protection in the UK and “they are coming here”.
Good Morning Britain host Susanna Reid asked her: “On what planet is that likely and how is that not inflammatory language?”
Suella Braverman challenged over ‘inflammatory’ claim 100 million migrants could come to UK
The home secretary said the 100 million was a UNHCR figure referred the number of people forcibly displaced, before adding: “Many of them are coming heading to the United Kingdom.”
Tory peer Gavin Barwell said Ms Braverman should be “utterly ashamed of herself for resorting to the language of extremists”.
Caitlin Boswell of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) told The Independent she was “horrified” to hear “such inflammatory, scaremongering rhetoric,” adding: “Aside from stoking fear and hate, her comments are also complete codswallop.”
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said the Sunak government plan to deport asylum seekers without considering their claims amounted to a “clear breach” of international law.
Senior Tory David Davis and others have pointed out the “real practical difficulties” in locking up thousands of people without any returns agreements outside of a deportation deal with Albania and the processing arrangement with Rwanda.