Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Rishi Sunak

‎”I’m meeting European leaders in Moldova today, putting tackling illegal migration top of the international agenda”

PM Rishi Sunak, Twitter

Facts

Rishi Sunak took to twitter to share a photo of himself at the second summit of the European Political Community, with the accompanying caption: “I’m meeting European leaders in Moldova today, putting tackling illegal migration top of the international agenda”

The European Political Community is a new organisation, set up in 2022 by French president Macron, based on a French idea to include non-EU countries in a pan-European conversation about geopolitics in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine.  The second summit was held in Moldova at the start of June 2023. 

The discussion of the second summit prioritised: “three main topics: joint efforts for peace and security; energy resilience and climate action; interconnections in Europe for a better connected and more stable continent”.

There was no mention of “tackling illegal migration” among this list of priorities. 

Yet Rishi Sunak’s tweet, which was accompanied by a picture of the summit, read in full: “I’m meeting European leaders in Moldova today, putting tackling illegal migration top of the international agenda. We’ve already made migration agreements with Albania, France and the EU to stop the boats. This global issue requires collaboration and the UK is taking the lead.”

Helene von Bismarck, a research fellow at the Centre for British Politics and Government at King’s College London, tweeted out a rebuke to Rishi Sunak: “Actually, you are attending the second meeting of the European Political Community, a new organisation based on a French idea to include non-EU countries in a pan-European conversation about geopolitics in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine. Happy to help.”

Verdict

Rishi Sunak’s Twitter account of the Moldova summit was false and manipulative.

We emailed Rishi Sunak’s office and Number 10 offering him the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply. 

Client Journalism: Additional Note

The summit had a number of purposes, of which the most important was the Ukraine war. Illegal migration was far down the agenda. However, Rishi Sunak’s Downing Street press handlers wanted to milk the event to appeal to a British domestic audience. To get away with their fabricated version of the Moldova summit, Rishi Sunak needed the cooperation of  British client journalists. The readiness of the press corps to fall into line is astonishing.

The Times, allegedly a newspaper of record, reported that “Britain will target Turkey and Bulgaria in efforts to tackle the small boats crisis as Rishi Sunak urges European leaders to make illegal migration the continent’s top priority.”  The Daily Mail  obediently told readers  “Rishi Sunak arrives at European leaders’ summit in bid to agree new clampdown on illegal migration “, whilst the Independent pleased its Downing Street masters with the headline: “Illegal migration top of the agenda as Sunak attends European summit”. GB News even labelled the summit, the “Moldova Migrant Meeting” during a broadcast. 

The BBC informed its audience that “Rishi Sunak prioritises illegal migration in European talks” though the text below did make clear that “the main focus of the European Political Community (EPC) summit was the Ukraine war”. Even the Guardian  in a headline which has since been changed) wrote: “Sunak to join EU leaders at asylum summit to address failings.”

Eagle-eyed Scottish reporter Xander Elliards of the National spotted the complicity between Sunak’s press machine and the British mainstream media in an article published the following day. We have drawn heavily on his analysis. 

We wrote to The Times, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The BBC, GB News and the Guardian showing each of these organisations the above commentary and offering the chance to respond. At the time of writing only the BBC has responded. It said that “the BBC provided the correct factual information and appropriate context.” We are grateful to the BBC for taking the trouble to respond. 

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