The programme, which has been delayed by legal challenges, was announced over two years ago by then-prime minister Boris Johnson.

But Mr Sunak has made delivering it a key priority of his premiership, regularly arguing it was central to his pledge to “stop the boats”.

In a sign he now wants to make delivering the plan a key offer to voters, he said flights will go “in July” and “that’s the choice at this election”.

Asked on BBC Radio 4 whether this meant after the election, he replied “Yes,” before adding “the choice here is clear”.

“If you think stopping the boats is important, and you think like I do that you need a deterrent to do that […] then I’m the only one that’s going to deliver that,” he added.

The Liberal Democrats called the comments an “utter humiliation and admission of defeat” from the prime minister.

“The Rwanda scheme has been an immoral and expensive disaster from day one,” added home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael.

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