‘This country deserves better than you!’ – Caroline Lucas clashes with Jonathan Gullis on Illegal Migration Bill

Caroline Lucas slammed Tory MP Jonathan Gullis

Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Gullis on Politics Live

Caroline Lucas told right wing Tory MP Jonathan Gullis “this country deserves so much better than you” in a fierce exchange over the government’s new anti-migrant legislation. The Green Party MP made the comment in a discussion on the Illegal Migration Bill on BBC Two’s Politics Live.

Lucas’ first contribution to the discussion came after host Jo Coburn asked her whether she was opposed to the Bill in its entirety. She laid into the Bill, branding it ‘illegal’, ‘immoral’ and ‘dangerous’.

Lucas said: “I am utterly against this Bill. I think it’s illegal, immoral, it’s divisive, its dangerous. I think it’s grotesquely inhumane, it’s cruel. Yes, you bet, the Green Party is absolutely against this Bill.”

She continued: “I think that to treat some of the most vulnerable people in the world in this way is wrong. And I think as well that unless you’re going to put safe and legal routes in place, then you’re never going to solve the problem at source. That is what people need.

“And the idea that somehow the UK needs to uniquely break international law because we are uniquely being affected by this is just wrong. 17 EU countries take more refugees than we do – and asylum seekers. We are well down that list.”

In the ensuing discussion, Tory MP Jonathan Gullis said: “I actually think the compassionate thing to do personally, and I personally would argue I am compassionate in this matter, is to stop these journeys from taking place, because there is no need for people to needlessly put their lives in danger by crossing the Channel. There’s no need to put thousands of pounds in the hands of smuggling gangs. And I think ultimately what we’re trying to do is to do what we had to do before with the Eurotunnel, do what we’ve done before with the lorries and stop people trying to illegally enter this country.”

Lucas came back in at this point to highlight that the only reason that people make the dangerous crossing of the Channel is because there is a lack of safe and legal routes for refugees to travel to the UK and claim asylum. She said: “If there aren’t safe and legal routes, why is there no need for people to have to do what they are doing? They’re only risking their lives because there is no alternative. Nobody wants to put a child…”

However, at this point Gullis interjected to say: “This country is a compassionate country”.

Lucas then retorted: “This country is indeed a compassionate country, and it deserves better than you, and it deserves better than the Conservatives.”

The Illegal Migration Bill would cause asylum claims to be automatically rejected from anyone who arrives in the UK via irregular or unlawful means. It would also place a duty on the home secretary to deport anyone who arrives through these means to Rwanda or a ‘safe third country’.

Home secretary Suella Braverman has said the Bill is intended to stop refugees crossing the Channel in small boats.

The Illegal Migration Bill would make claiming asylum incredibly difficult as there are very few safe and legal routes for refugees to arrive in the UK. If the Bill becomes law, refugees will usually only be able claim asylum through established schemes – such as those for people fleeing Ukraine.

The Bill has faced significant criticism, with the UK’s official equalities watchdog saying it ‘removes protections for victims of trafficking’, and the leading race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust arguing it uses the same ‘dehumanising rhetoric’ as Enoch Powell’s racist ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.

Jonathan Gullis’ clash with Caroline Lucas isn’t the first time he’s been shown up in debates around migration. In September 2021, he was schooled Zoe Gardner from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants at a Select Committee meeting.

The Illegal Migration Bill is due to return to parliament on April 26.

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

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