Boris Johnson blocked a plan by Priti Patel to make it easier for more Ukrainian refugees to come to the UK, according to government sources cited by Sky News.
The prime minister and his chief of staff Steve Barclay are accused of “personally slapping down” Patel’s plan to open up a new “humanitarian route” for people fleeing the war, a source told the broadcaster.
Patel’s handling of the crisis has been severely criticised and saw a U-turn announced on Thursday over the policy requiring refugees to seek appointments and biometric tests at visa centres.
Just 7% of people in Britain think the home secretary wants to help Ukrainians come to the UK, according to a YouGov poll for the Times published yesterday (March 11). The same poll reports 60% believe Britain is not doing enough to help,
Knives out for Patel over Ukrainian refugees
Number 10 denies any disagreements and said the government is united and working at pace. However, the Huffington Post reports “Tory knives are out” for Patel over her stance on Ukrainian refugees while the BBC says Patel is “under intense pressure, with suggestions that Downing Street is “losing confidence” in the home secretary. The Guardian reports growing frustration among her cabinet colleagues after a “week of punishing criticism” about Patel’s handling of the refugee crisis.
As well rejecting Patel’s new humanitarian route, No 10 also halted the home secretary’s proposal to allow the extended family of temporary UK visa holders into the country. News that levelling-up secretary Michael Gove will set out the government’s new policy for refugees on Monday, rather than the home secretary, has increased speculation about her position.
It comes following Thursday’s U-turn when Patel announced the removal of the need for Ukrainian passport holders to make visa and biometric appointments before coming to the UK.
Earlier in the week, Patel caused more anger – and accusations she misled the House – after she told MPs that a visa centre had been set up in Calais when it had not. “That was untrue, and under any normal administration that in itself would be a resignation matter,” veteran Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale told the Commons.
The Telegraph reports that Ukrainians coming to Britain under the “rooms-for-refugees” scheme “are set to get full access to UK welfare benefits”.
A “humanitarian sponsorship” visa may give Ukrainians without any family links to the UK, leave to remain for 36 months. It will put “tens of thousands of Ukrainians on a par with refugees on the family visa scheme who have relatives in the UK” which gives three years right to remain, access to benefits and rights to work.
The scheme – to be launched by Gove on Monday – will match refugees with businesses, charities, community groups and individuals who are offering accommodation and employment. A hotline and webpage for offers of rooms for refugees will also be set up under the UK’s Ukraine family scheme.
Macron says UK has failed to live up to its ‘grand statements’
French president Emmanuel Macron eviscerated the UK’s scheme for refugees for piling more misery on desperate people. While welcoming Britain’s policy change towards Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, Macron, at the end of an EU summit in Versailles on Friday, said the UK has failed to live up to its “grand statements”.
Macron added: “I would hope that the Ukrainian men and women who have lived through horror and crossed Europe to reach their families on UK territory will be better treated.”
The president of France’s remarks follows those by a minister that Britain’s initial response to the crisis lacked humanity.
UK to ban luxury goods exports to Russia
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports the UK is banning the export of luxury goods to Russia, having announced tighter sanctions on almost 400 Russian politicians earlier this week.
The move follows the G7’s decision to deny Russia its “most favoured nation” status on trading key products. Downing Street said it will announce details of its luxury goods ban this week.
“Labour has been calling for weeks now for a ban on luxury goods being sent to Russia, so it is welcome that the UK government have finally listened – but it should not have taken this long,” said Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow international trade secretary.
“We cannot allow Putin, and his cronies in Moscow, to live a Mayfair lifestyle while they kill innocent people in their illegal invasion of Ukraine.”