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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Sunak has to gamble

Rishi Sunak is on a little bit of a roll. Can he continue his momentum?
The Prime Minister is still feeling triumphant after pulling off an unexpectedly wide-ranging overhaul of the post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland last week, which followed a string of mini-victories tending to vindicate the “steady as she goes” approach to governing.

But his next step is more perilous: today Mr Sunak will unveil a new law, hotly anticipated by impatient Tory MPs, which will aim to stop asylum seekers crossing the Channel in small boats to seek refuge in the UK.

There are several potential pitfalls. The legislation may skirt close to the edge of what is permitted under the Europe-wide human rights regime, alarming liberals; it may fall short of the ultra-tough measures demanded by some Conservatives; most dangerously of all, it may simply prove ineffective in delivering its stated objective.

Later this week, Mr Sunak will go to see French premier Emmanuel Macron to discuss the ramping up of current cooperation efforts, a stern test of his diplomatic skills. For now, it feels like almost everything the Prime Minister does is in the shadow of his predecessor-but-one: Boris Johnson is quite deliberately teasing his fanbase with hints of a comeback.

But delivery of tangible progress on the big issues is what should really concern Mr Sunak. Over the next 10 days, he will follow his small boats plan and Paris trip with a visit to the US and then the Budget; before long we may know whether or not he is the tortoise who will win the race, or ultimately a learner driver stuck in the slow lane.

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