Illegal Channel Boats a Major Issue Among ‘Infuriated’ Britons: Pollster


The public overwhelmingly supports a reduction in small boats illegally crossing the Channel, according to a number of polls and pollsters.

Earlier in the month, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed to put an end to illegal immigration under new legislation, which will ban Channel crossings by those seeking asylum.

Recent figures from the Home Office show that 2,950 illegal immigrants already have crossed the English Channel in small boats this year after more than 45,000 illegal immigrants made the trip to reach the UK in 2022.

Polling experts and academics spoke to The Epoch Times about what the British public thinks about illegal small-boat crossings.

Recently, JL Partners, the firm of James Johnson, Theresa May’s former No 10 pollster, polled exclusively for Channel 4, on “Red Wall” voters. These are constituencies in the Midlands and Northern England which historically supported the Labour Party, though after the 2019 general election, supported the Conservative Party.

Epoch Times Photo
Detainees inside the Manston short-term holding centre for illegal immigrants wave to members of the media outside, near Ramsgate, Kent, southeast England, on Nov. 3, 2022. (Daniel Leal /AFP via Getty Images)

Small Boats

The poll found that 59 percent of Red Wall voters supported “stopping migrants in small boats from illegally crossing the Channel using any means necessary,” while only 25 percent opposed it.

The same proportion of voters also supported withdrawing the right to appeal against deportation for those who cross the Channel in small boats, by a margin of almost three to one.

JL Partners found there are also slim margins of support for leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), if it prevents the government from implementing its plans to crack down on illegal immigration, though this is below a majority, 46 percent vs 31 percent who opposed.

The issue of housing migrants who crossed the Channel in small boats was deeply unpopular, with 59 percent actively opposed, as was fast-tracking routes for countries with higher application success rates.

“The British public back the government’s Illegal Immigration Bill by a margin of two to one,” Johnson told The Epoch Times.

“For all the polarisation amongst Twitter influencers, the data is clear: people are infuriated by what they see as people coming to the UK illegally, and being given a free pass to the country’s resources while they themselves struggle with the cost of living and deteriorating healthcare,” he added.

According to JL Partners polling done exclusively for The Times of London’s Redbox, including the word “illegal” when polling on the UK government’s small boats policy makes no statistically significant difference to support.

‘Weakens Our Democracy’

Academic, political scientist, and pollster Matthew Goodwin told The Epoch Times that looking at the polling on illegal immigration, the message is “crystal clear” that the large majority of people say that the government currently does not have illegal migration under control.

The professor of politics at the University of Kent said that the trend of high numbers of illegal small boats in recent years blows apart the notion that the “British people have regained control of our borders ever since the Brexit referendum.”

This, he said, taps into notions of democratic accountability and that the government is not taking their concerns seriously or not responding to them.

“If anything it weakens our democracy,” he said.

Goodwin said that he has run focus groups in Red Wall areas, who say they are upset and confused.

“Given some of the stories that have emerged in recent weeks, for example, regarding assaults on school children and young girls, I think many people are wondering why on earth this is being allowed to happen in the first place,” he added.

Goodwin said that in his new book “Values, Voice, and Virtue,” he argues that we have “just got through 10 years of people trying to push back against the political consensus that has been largely imposed by a more liberal graduate class.”

“The big risk here is that if we do not respond to public concerns over this issue, then we’re going to end up back where we were during the 2010s with large numbers of voters looking for far more radical options, so we do need to get controlled with the borders in order to neutralise any potential space for far more radical and divisive politics,” he added.

Epoch Times Photo
An inflatable craft carrying illegal immigrants crosses the shipping lane in the English Channel off the coast of Dover, England, on Aug. 4, 2022. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Polling expert Sir John Curtice told The Epoch Times that the results are pretty similar to what you’d expect from other polls, which is around a half of the population are in favour of the government’s illegal small boats policy, a third are opposed and the rest don’t express a view.

Curtice said while the majority of people are in favour of the policy, it’s different whether they believe the government can deliver.

“One of the other things we’re rapidly learning is that Brexit has not reduced immigration,” he said.

On Thursday, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) projected that net migration flows will settle at 245,000 a year, rather than the 205,000 assumed in its November forecast.

Curtice said that the issue of immigration in the Brexit vote was not really about numbers, it was about “control.”

“It is arguably a failure of control to the thing that makes the public concerned about immigration policy,” he added.

“Basically this government has to succeed in doing what David Cameron failed to do in 2010, which is to deliver,” said Curtice.

High Levels of Immigration

“I think it is pretty clear that the public wants to end illegal crossings and don’t see the need to have to flee France as it is a safe country,” Professor Eric Kaufmann, a politics lecturer at Birkbeck College, told The Epoch Times by email.

“I think John Curtice is, however, correct that the public may be annoyed about illegal immigration but they also are aware that the Tories have had 13 years in office, have presided over continuing high levels of immigration despite promising to reduce numbers, and have not been serious about addressing small boats until very recently,” he added.

“So delivery on this issue will be vital: the public will not reward the Conservatives in the polls until there is concrete evidence the trend is moving in the right direction,” he said.

The Epoch Times contacted The Home Office for comment.

Alexander Zhang contributed to this report.


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