Rishi Sunak vowed to “robustly” take on European judges in the fight to stop small boats as he admitted the crisis will not be fixed “overnight”. The Prime Minister said channel crossings are a “complicated” issue and there is “no single, simple solution”.
More than 4,500 people have arrived in the UK already this year using the illegal route.
Mr. Sunak has made stopping the boats one of his top five priorities for the government, but refused to say if the pledge would be met by the next election.
In an interview with ConservativeHome he said: “I’ve always said this is not something that is easy; it is a complicated problem where there is no single, simple solution that will fix it.
Mr Sunak said he expects a legal battle over the “novel, untested” and “ambitious” Illegal Migration Bill, which is going through Parliament.
He said there “there may well be” an interim judgment from the European Court of Human Rights against the policy.
But the PM vowed to take on the judges in Strasbourg if they try to block the plans.
“That’s always likely to happen in these cases and we will robustly challenge those, as we are doing with the Rwandan cases that are currently working their way through the court system,” he said.
“You have to expect legal challenges on these things; our job is to robustly defend them and that’s what we’ll do.”
Some 492 people on Wednesday last week, the year’s highest daily total.
The total number of migrants making crossings last year was 45,755.
Mr. Sunak’s Illegal Migration Bill is aimed at changing the law to make it clear that people arriving in the UK illegally will not be able to remain in the country.
Instead they will either be sent back to their home country or to a nation like Rwanda with which the UK has a deal, although so far legal challenges mean no flights carrying migrants have taken off for Kigali.
The Government’s attempts to use a former RAF base in Essex to house asylum seekers is also set to end up in court.
Braintree District Council said it has been granted an injunction hearing at the High Court on April 19 and the Home Office has agreed not to move any migrants on to the Wethersfield site until after that date.
In a statement, the Tory-run council said the Home Office has confirmed preparatory work will continue at the site.
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Sunak insisted he was not responsible for the downfall of Boris Johnson by quitting as his Chancellor.
The PM said he resigned over a “fundamental difference about economic policy”.
“What happened thereafter was not my doing,” he added.
The Prime Minister said the party has now got to look forward.
“I said that on the first day I became Prime Minister, I said to the party ‘we’ve got to unite or die’.
“I reiterated that in the ’22 (meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers) that I did just before we finished for the Easter recess, when I was talking to colleagues again.
“And the point I made to them, actually, we are starting to see the fruits of what a united party can do… we are getting on and actually making a difference on a range of different areas that matter.”