Gary Lineker has said he stands by his criticism of the Government’s new immigration policy and does not fear punishment by the BBC.

The Government unveiled its plan on Tuesday to ban all asylum claims from those who arrive in the UK illegally, with Rishi Sunak saying the policy will “take back control of our borders, once and for all”.

The plan has drawn widespread criticism, with refugee groups saying it would effectively “shut down” remaining legal routes for refugees claiming asylum.

Match of the Day host Lineker added his voice to the criticism despite the BBC’s strict impartiality guidelines.

What did Gary Lineker say?

Lineker criticised the policy on Tuesday, tweeting a Home Office video of Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, announcing the plan, captioned: “Good heavens, this is beyond awful.”

Responding to one critic on Twitter, he then wrote: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.

“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s, and I’m out of order?”

A number of Tory MPs have expressed outrage at Lineker’s comments and Downing Street described his tweets as “disappointing”.

Lineker tweeted to his 8.7 million followers on Wednesday: “I have never known such love and support in my life than I’m getting this morning (England World Cup goals aside, possibly). I want to thank each and every one of you. It means a lot. I’ll continue to try and speak up for those poor souls that have no voice. Cheers all.”

Could Gary Lineker be fired by the BBC?

Lineker has refused to delete his tweets, and said he is not scared of being suspended by the BBC.

i understands that there is no suggestion he will be pulled from this weekend’s Match of the Day and is unlikely to face any other sanction.

A spokesperson for the BBC said the corporation would have a “frank conversation” with the presenter, however, Lineker has continued to retweet messages from high-profile figures supporting him.

Lineker spoke to reporters outside his London home on Thursday morning. Asked if he would like to say something on the matter, Lineker responded, “Yes, I would like to say something, very good morning to you”, as he walked to a waiting car, before answering “no” when asked if he fears suspension over his tweets.

As he climbed into the rear passenger seat, he responded to a reporter asking if he has spoken to the BBC, saying: “I’m always talking to the BBC.”

Asked if he had spoken to the director general, he said, after a pause, “yeah” before adding: “He said… well, we chat often.”

Before closing the door, he was asked if he regretted his tweet, responding “no”, and when asked if he stood by it he said “course”.

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Richard Ayre, who served as deputy chief executive at the BBC in the late 1990s, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday that the director general, Tim Davie, may be left with no option but to sack Lineker if he did not back down.

He said: “I don’t think he is going to have any choice but to let him go unless he can be certain that this is the end of it.”

The BBC has strict impartiality rules, and Mr Davie has made impartiality a key platform of his leadership.

He has previously said: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.”

The BBC’s editorial guidelines state: “Where individuals identify themselves as being linked with the BBC, or are programme makers, editorial staff, reporters or presenters primarily associated with the BBC, their activities on social media have the potential to compromise the BBC’s impartiality and to damage its reputation.”

However, how this applies to Lineker – as a sports presenter tweeting from his personal account – is somewhat murky.

BBC culture and media editor, Katie Razzall, said: “If a news presenter commented, as he has done, about the Government’s asylum policies, or about Brexit for example, they would at the very least receive a very serious warning.

“Lineker, as somebody associated with sport for the BBC, and who argues he is a freelancer, is in a different position.”

As Match of the Day host, Lineker is the BBC’s highest-paid presenter. He is a hugely important figure for the corporation, and this will likely play into discussions around his future.

Lineker has toed the impartiality line with the BBC before. Last year he posted about the then-foreign secretary, Liz Truss, urging a boycott of the Champions League final in Russia.

Lineker responded: “And her party will hand back their donations from Russian donors?”

The BBC’s executive complaints unit ruled that, although the Lineker is not required to uphold the same impartiality standards as BBC journalists, he has an “additional responsibility” because of his significant profile.

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