Sunak admits Rwanda flights will not take off before election - and denies vote called due to expected inflation rise

23 May 2024, 07:41 | Updated: 23 May 2024, 10:24

Rishi Sunak has admitted Rwanda flights will not take off before the general election - as he denied calling a summer vote because inflation is expected to rise.

The prime minister has said for the past few months the first flights removing asylum seekers to the African nation will happen in July.

But after calling a general election for 4 July, whether the flights will take off at all has been called into question.

"The first flights will go in July," he told the BBC.

He then added: "If I'm re-elected as prime minister on July 5, these flights will go, we will get our Rwanda scheme up and running."

When pressed on the timing of flights, Mr Sunak told LBC: "No, after the election. The preparation work has already gone on."

Follow live updates after general election called

With Labour on a 20-point lead in the polls, the Conservatives' flagship illegal migration scheme may, quite literally, never get off the ground.

'There'll be no flights'

Earlier this month, Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News: "There'll be no flights. I want to scrap the scheme so that means the flights won't be going.

"There'll be no flights scheduled or taking off after the general election, if Labour wins that general election."

Many were surprised by the PM calling a summer election on Monday, with some MPs querying whether it was because inflation is expected to rise again and there could also be an increase in small boat arrivals over the summer.

"No, that's not the real reason," Mr Sunak told the BBC.

"And when it comes to the economy, of course, I know there's more work to do. I know that people are only just starting to feel the benefits of the changes that we've brought.

"And for some people when they look at their bank balance at the end of every month it will still be difficult, but we have undeniably made progress and stability has returned."

Inflation fell to 2.3% - the lowest rate in nearly three years - hours before Mr Sunak announced the election.

Read more:

Why Sunak may have decided to call election now
A six-week race for the keys to Number 10

Both Mr Starmer and Sir Keir kicked off their election campaigns on Thursday morning, just hours after the PM announced the date people will go to the polls the evening before.

Election campaigns under way

The PM is embarking on a two-day trip of all four of the UK's nations, while Sir Keir was heading to southeast England to tackle the traditional Tory battlegrounds there.

Reform UK leader Richard Tice was getting ready for a news conference, where the party's co-founder Nigel Farage could announce a return to frontline politics.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey is expected to visit a target seat to launch his campaign, which is expected to focus on targeting Conservative-held seats.

In parliament, there is just today and Friday to get important legislation rushed through the Commons before parliament is prorogued - the end of the session - on Friday.

The Victims and Prisoners Bill will be one of the main pieces of legislation as it includes measures to establish a compensation scheme for victims of the infected blood scandal announced this week.