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Sunak would put Britain on ‘crisis footing’

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak: challenges are ‘staring us in the face’

Rishi Sunak says the UK faces a national emergency over the economy, NHS backlogs and illegal migration and as Prime Minister he would put the country on a “crisis footing”.

The former Chancellor made the statement in an interview as his rival Liz Truss promises “a bonfire” of EU laws which she blames for holding back the country’s growth.

Speaking to The Times, Mr Sunak said a “business-as-usual mentality isn’t going to cut it” when it comes to dealing with challenges that are “staring us in the face”.

He said: “Having been inside government I think the system just isn’t working as well as it should. And the challenges that I’m talking about, they’re not abstract, they’re not things that are coming long down the track.

“From day one of being in office I’m going to put us on a crisis footing.”

Mr Sunak will promise to accelerate NHS targets to cut waiting lists and make it easier to get scans without going to hospital.

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In a further criticism of the government’s record, Mr Sunak suggested ministers had lost their grip on the nation’s borders. More than 15,000 migrants have crossed the Channel this year.

He pledged to push on with the government’s policy of sending migrants to Rwanda and to deal with legal challenges “robustly”. He also suggested that his relationship with President Macron of France would be more constructive than Boris Johnson’s, enabling progress on talks to tackle the problem.

“I don’t think people feel that we do [have control] when they see the pictures on their screens [of migrants arriving on beaches],” he said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has described herself as an “insurgent” who wants change.

In an interview The Daily Telegraph, she said after two decades of low growth and now the economic shock from the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the UK was facing a “pivotal moment”.

She said: “Do we continue with business as usual?

“I want to do things differently and be bold so that we become a high-growth, high-productivity powerhouse.”

Liz Truss: bonfire of EU laws

Ms Truss, who was among the ministers who did not resign from Boris Johnson’s government earlier this month, has announced a plan to review thousands of laws inherited from the EU after Brexit.

Although she campaigned to stay in the EU at the 2016 referendum – unlike Leave-voting Mr Sunak – she has since embraced Brexit and is now seeking to argue she is best placed to ensure it delivers economic benefits.

The Foreign Secretary has promised to scrap or replace by the end of 2023 EU laws that she blames for holding back the economy. She believes that “a red tape bonfire will encourage business investment and boost growth”.

The two candidates have clashed over tax with Ms Truss pledging around £30bn in immediate tax cuts, arguing they will boost growth, while Mr Sunak has said immediate cuts could fuel already-soaring inflation.

Mr Sunak topped the MPs’ ballots to qualify for the final run-off with Ms Truss, but polls currently suggest the Foreign Secretary is the favoured candidate of party members, who decide the leader.

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