Downing Street put the brakes on Home Office initiatives to allow a bigger share of Ukrainians fleeing their homeland to settle in the United Kingdom, Sky News understands.
Home Secretary Priti Patel faced significant criticism this week from colleagues for failing to provide more routes for Ukrainians to reach the UK, prompting anger among Conservative MPs and speculation she could be removed from her role.
Sky News understands that Number 10 played a key role in reining in two initiatives from Ms Patel, which would have opened the system up even further.
Number 10 denied any disagreements and stressed the government was united and working at pace.
On Monday, Number 10 killed Ms Patel’s plan – which she briefed to The Sun newspaper – to create a “humanitarian route” for Ukrainians.
Instead, next Monday, a different cabinet member – Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove – will announce an alternative plan to allow Ukrainians who have a “sponsor”, such as a local authority, to enter the country.
Later in the week, Number 10 was also a key force in halting a Home Office plan to allow the family members of Ukrainians on temporary visas enter the UK.
Currently, Ukrainians with permanent UK visas can bring in extended family, but those with temporary visas cannot and the Home Office was proposing changing this.
Sky News was told Number 10 convinced the Home Office to withdraw a “write round” – the formal government procedure used by ministers to seek authorisation from cabinet colleagues for new policies.
A government source said that Number 10 was not the only government department seeking to persuade Ms Patel to withdraw the write round about the rights of Ukrainians on temporary visas.
Two sources told Sky News that Mr Johnson, his new chief of staff Steve Barclay and Number 10 head of policy Andrew Griffith have been cautious about opening up routes for Ukrainians to come in large numbers without full checks.
“The problem is Number 10 – the PM and Steve Barclay – who are personally slapping this down,” said a source.
A Tory source said that some people in Number 10 have been more hardline on migration issues than many expected, and it was unfair that Ms Patel was getting the blame.
Number 10 disputed any suggestion of a row this week and insisted that the two main routes for Ukrainians being drawn up – inviting family members of Ukrainians with permanent visas and allowing any Ukrainian who has been “sponsored” – are already very generous.
There is a determination in government to make sure any new route is not abused by criminals seeking to exploit routes to come and settle in the UK.
Similarly, those Britons offering shelter to Ukrainians will also have to be vetted to make sure they do not exploit vulnerable refugees.
Speaking on Sky News last night, Boris Johnson emphasised he was unwilling to waive certain levels of checks when admitting Ukrainians escaping from the Russian bombardment.
“I think people want us to be generous, but they also want us to be careful”, the PM told Sky News political editor Beth Rigby.