How will Rishi Sunak tackle all of the major challenges facing the UK?

From foreign policy to immigration - this is how Rishi Sunak will tackle areas of policy as Britain's new prime minister

Rishi Sunak has become the new prime minister after a rapid Conservative leadership contest, but enters office with the UK in the midst of an economic crisis and will have an intray full of difficult decisions.

As a result of the speed of the leadership contest, Mr Sunak barely spoke about his plans for the country should he win.

But only seven weeks after the end of the previous leadership election, the promises he made over the summer provide clues to what he might do now he has won his battle for No10.

The economy

At the top of Mr Sunak's inbox is fixing the economy which has been shaken by Liz Truss's mini-budget and is under pressure from record-high inflation.

The big date is the October 31 statement by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, where he is expected to reveal the full scale of the black hole in the government's finances.

It is unlikely Mr Sunak will try and replace Mr Hunt and his commitment to balancing the books is well known so he is unlikely to change course.

His determination to tackle the deficit is what saw him increase the tax burden to its highest level for 70 years as chancellor despite his personal preference for lower taxes.

On spending, Mr Sunak’s instincts are likely to align with the spending cuts already trailed by Mr Hunt.

He was already unenthusiastic about large-scale spending commitments, saying in his first leadership bid that the government needed to "return to traditional Conservative economic values" rather than "fairytales".

Since he spoke over the summer the economy has deteriorated even more and he may make difficult and unpopular decisions to balance the books.

This could put paid to some of the larger spending promises in the 2019 manifesto, as well as Ms Truss’s pledge to increase defence spending to 3% of GDP, which he previously described as "arbitrary".

Health and social care

Although the economy is the main policy area Mr Sunak will be focusing on, many other areas of the government are struggling, mainly the NHS.

Rishi Sunak gave billions to the NHS during the pandemic. Credit: PA

Mr Sunak’s main health policy during the last leadership election was bringing in a £10 penalty for missing appointments as part of efforts to tackle the NHS backlog.

He also promised a "backlogs taskforce" to co-ordinate that effort and an expansion of the number of overseas doctors and nurses brought in to work in the NHS.

It remains unclear whether he will seek to reintroduce the increase in national insurance that he brought in as chancellor but which was subsequently scrapped by Ms Truss.

His book-balancing instincts may push him towards doing so, but it would be the third change to that tax in a year and Mr Hunt said on October 17 that it would remain scrapped.


Mr Sunak’s immigration policies during the last leadership election focused entirely on curbing Channel crossings and toughening up asylum rules.

This included pushing ahead with the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, tightening the definition of who can claim asylum, and increasing resources for dealing with the backlog of asylum applicants.

In contrast, he said little about what he would do regarding work visas as the UK continues to face a labour shortage.

But the former chancellor did say he wants to be "pragmatic" and ensure immigration policy supports economic growth, which suggests a more liberal approach to work visas than that favoured by the likes of former home secretary Suella Braverman.


During the last leadership election, Mr Sunak said he was committed to protecting the green belt and would stop local authorities attempting to release protected land for development.

This is likely to mean the end of the government’s 2019 manifesto commitment to build 300,000 homes a year and a move away from "top-down targets".

Climate change and the environment

Mr Sunak has said he remains committed to the UK’s target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

But his plans are more in line with those of Ms Truss than Boris Johnson, as he backs offshore wind, rooftop solar, and nuclear power, but appears less keen on solar farms and onshore wind.

During the last leadership election, he said he wanted to see the UK become energy-independent by 2045, but also said he would keep the ban on building new onshore wind farms and vowed to prevent farmland being covered in solar panels.

He also backed lifting the moratorium on fracking, providing it has local support. This is a policy that Ms Truss supported, but fracking has proved a contentious issue for Tory MPs and could therefore be a lower priority for Mr Sunak.

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As chancellor, Mr Sunak cut VAT on home insulation measures and, during the summer leadership campaign, he said he would "embark on a programme of massive energy efficiency upgrades in people’s homes".

This would be a point of difference between Mr Sunak and Ms Truss, who largely avoided discussing insulation during her tenure.

But it will also cost money, leaving further difficult choices to be made in Mr Sunak’s first budget.

Foreign policy

Mr Sunak backed Brexit from the beginning and has previously expressed his support for the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which would unilaterally rip up the agreement on Ireland.

In this, he is similar to Ms Truss. But his predecessor also oversaw a relative thawing of relations with the EU and Ireland which he may wish to continue.

He is also unlikely to deviate significantly from Ms Truss’s line on China, which he described as "the largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century."