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UK’s new Prime Minister Starmer declares the controversial Rwanda deportation plan as defunct

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer made a decisive move on his inaugural day in office by announcing the abandonment of a contentious Conservative policy to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda. In his first comprehensive press conference, he affirmed his commitment to initiating change, acknowledging that progress would require time.

“The Rwanda scheme was terminated before it ever gained traction,” Starmer asserted. “It has proven ineffective as a deterrent, if not the opposite.”

This declaration was widely anticipated, given Starmer’s prior indications that he would discard the costly plan, which failed to materialize despite substantial financial investment.

The press conference followed his initial Cabinet meeting, marking the commencement of his government’s efforts to address a plethora of domestic challenges and to rebuild public trust, worn thin after years of austerity, political turmoil, and economic hardship.

Starmer warmly welcomed his new ministers at 10 Downing Street, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to lead the government following his official appointment as prime minister by King Charles III.

“We have an immense amount of work ahead of us, so let’s get to it,” he declared.

Starmer’s Labour Party achieved a historic victory on Friday, delivering the most significant setback to the Conservatives in their two-century history, with a platform centered on transformative change.

The challenges facing his administration are extensive, including revitalizing a sluggish economy, reforming a strained healthcare system, and restoring faith in governmental institutions.

“Just because Labour secured a landslide victory doesn’t mean the Conservative government’s challenges have disappeared,” cautioned Tim Bale, a politics professor at Queen Mary University of London.

In his initial remarks as prime minister following the traditional investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Starmer pledged immediate action while cautioning that tangible results would take time to materialize.

“Transforming a nation is not a quick fix,” he remarked to jubilant supporters outside his new residence at 10 Downing Street. “This will be a gradual process. But rest assured, the work of change starts now.”

Starmer’s agenda is packed following a six-week campaign that traversed all four nations of the United Kingdom. He is set to travel to Washington for a NATO summit next week and will host the European Political Community summit on July 18, immediately following the state opening of Parliament and the King’s Speech outlining the government’s agenda.

On Friday, Starmer underscored several priorities, including repairing the revered but beleaguered National Health Service (NHS) and fortifying national borders—an issue amplified by a broader global trend of increased migration driven by conflict, poverty, and climate change-induced environmental crises.

A woman is helped onto a beach on the southeast coast of England, on August 16, 2023, after she was picked up at sea with other migrants.

The Conservatives struggled to stem the flow of migrants crossing the English Channel, failing to fulfill former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats,” which culminated in the contentious plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda.

“Labour must find a resolution to the issue of small boats crossing the Channel,” Bale remarked. “They may have abandoned the Rwanda scheme, but they will need alternative strategies to address this specific challenge.”

Suella Braverman, a staunch Conservative advocate on immigration and a potential candidate for party leadership, criticized Starmer’s decision to terminate the Rwanda agreement.

“Years of effort, legislative acts, and millions of pounds were invested in a scheme that, if implemented correctly, could have been effective,” she lamented. “Unfortunately, Keir Starmer’s actions will likely lead to significant challenges in the future.”

Meanwhile, Starmer’s Cabinet is already hard at work. Foreign Secretary David Lammy embarked on his first international trip on Saturday to meet with counterparts in Germany, Poland, and Sweden, underscoring the importance of international relations.

Health Secretary Wes Streeting announced plans to initiate fresh negotiations next week with junior NHS doctors, who have staged multiple strikes amid a prolonged dispute over pay—a conflict exacerbating the NHS’s perennial issues with lengthy waiting times for appointments.

In summary, Keir Starmer’s early actions as prime minister reflect a determination to break from his predecessors’ policies and tackle pressing domestic issues head-on, setting a course for substantial governmental transformation despite the daunting challenges ahead.

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