Oris Johnson said he was prepared to emphasize the “obvious merits” of his Rwandan asylum policy to the Prince of Wales when they held talks in Kigali following alleged criticism from Charles.
The prime minister criticized “condescending” opponents of plans to forcibly remove migrants to the East African nation, a policy the prince is said to have called “appalling”.
But Downing Street sought to dampen expectations that the pair would discuss the plan, which has been underpinned by legal challenges, after talks between No 10 and Clarence House on Thursday.
They will meet on Friday for talks over cups of tea at the center of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) leaders’ summit in the Rwandan capital.
It will follow Johnson holding talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, during which he failed to mention significant human rights concerns about his regime.
The Kigali government said it had already received payments under the £120m migration and economic deal signed two months ago, and had already spent some of the money.
The conversation between the prime minister and Charles will be the first since the prince was reported to have described the policy as “appalling” in private comments.
Johnson said he is “delighted that Prince Charles and everyone are here today to see a country that has undergone a complete or very substantial transformation.”
During an interview with broadcasters at a school in Kigali, the prime minister was asked if he is willing to defend the policy if Charles brings it up.
“People need to be open-minded about politics, critics need to be open-minded about politics. Many people can see its obvious merits. So yes, of course, if I’m going to see the prince tomorrow, I’m going to make that point clear,” Johnson said.
Speaking to reporters as he prepared to fly to Rwanda, Johnson had said he hoped the trip “maybe help others shed some of their condescending attitudes toward Rwanda and how that partnership might work.”
But the prime minister’s official spokesman went on to say that Johnson was “unlikely” to mention the policy, which he argued was not “at the forefront of his mind”.
It was understood that Charles was unlikely to mention it either.
Kagame has been praised for his role in ending the 1994 genocide in which ethnic Hutu extremists massacred some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the 100-day civil war.
But his regime has since been accused of political repression, alleged assassinations and the jailing of critics.
Downing Street had suggested that Johnson, who visited the Kigali genocide memorial on Thursday, would raise human rights concerns.
But after their meeting, their spokesman said: “I don’t think they discussed that in their meeting, there were a lot of issues that they discussed.
“You will know that some of the concerns regarding rights have been raised on a number of occasions, including at the ministerial level very recently, so it is something that we raised with Rwanda.”
Despite this being Mr. Johnson’s first visit to the nation during his time at No. 10, he did not plan to visit any of the lodgings earmarked for the show.
The first flight carrying people to Rwanda was due to take off last week but was hit by successful legal challenges ahead of a full hearing on the legality of the scheme in UK courts.
Although the policy is effectively substantiated until a ruling on its legality in UK courts, the couple said it is already working.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “The leaders also praised the successful UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership, which is tackling dangerous smuggling gangs while giving people the opportunity to build a new life in a safe country”.
On Thursday night, Johnson was to attend a leadership dinner hosted by Kagame.
The next day, he will attend the Chogm opening ceremony, participate in the summit sessions, and dine at the banquet hosted by Charles.