Sunak’s whirlwind world tour begins with speech for domestic consumption | Politics News
Rishi Sunak’s big week on the world stage has begun.
On Tuesday he was in Reykjavik for the Council of Europe – on Wednesday he flies to Hiroshima for the G7 summit.
It has already been a whirlwind of handshakes, diplomatic rituals and high-level mingling.
It is a chance for the prime minister to look statesmanly – relaxed among world leaders: but will cosying up to European allies help him as he grapples with the right of his party over Brexit and immigration?
We are in what may be the trickiest period of Mr Sunak’s premiership yet.
He has been weakened by a dire set of local election results, and faces pressure over the speed that EU laws will be rolled back on post-Brexit, and how far he will go to tighten the UK’s immigration laws.
How much of a threat do rebel Tory conferences pose to Sunak?
Yesterday Suella Bravermann, his home secretary, took to the stage, in what some saw as a future leadership bid and a blatant undermining of the prime minister, to make a speech about immigration at the National Conservatism conference.
While the focus of this Council of Europe summit, only the fourth since the group was set up after the Second World War, is on Ukraine – immigration is what Rishi Sunak wants to talk about.
He has used this opportunity to send a message home that he can be robust on immigration with Europe.
Addressing the council, he said: “The moral case for action is clear: we can’t just sit back and watch as criminal gangs profiteer on people’s misery.”
Earlier, Mr Sunak met with the President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and called for reform to limit the powers of European judges to interfere in domestic politics.
His message will certainly chime with Conservatives who have been critical of the ECtHR, for allowing the last-minute grounding of a migrant flight bound for Rwanda.
It is not clear though that there is any appetite for change in Europe.
French President Emmanuel Macron told me he “wants to understand” what reform Rishi Sunak is proposing but said the Council of Europe’s “principles need to be respected”.
Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, accused the UK of trying to “pick and choose”. He said: “Relations with the UK have never been the easiest.”
Any commitment from European leaders today seems far-fetched but Rishi Sunak’s rhetoric is for domestic consumption.
The prime minister may have wanted to talk about immigration but the star attraction at this summit was a video appearance from President Zelenskyy.
The hall fell silent as, fresh from his surprise visit to Chequers, the Ukrainian president issued another rallying cry for continued support from European leaders.