Rishi Sunak's new migrant flight law will rule Rwanda is 'safe'

BREAKING NEWS Rishi Sunak’s new migrant flight law will rule Rwanda is ‘safe’ and shield deportations from human rights challenges after Suella Braverman challenges him to save Tories from ‘electoral oblivion’ over Channel boats

Rishi Sunak will try to block Rwanda migrant flights from human rights challenges under new legislation that will rule that the country is a ‘safe’ destination for those crossing the Channel in small boats.

A new law published tonight will seek to ‘disapply’ parts of the 1998 Human Rights Act in a bid to ensure flights take off before the next election.

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill will also reinforce the power of ministers to ignore rulings made by European Court of Human Rights judges, though it stops short of pulling out of its jurisdiction.

The Prime Minister said the legislation will ensure his flagship asylum scheme ‘cannot be stopped’ as he battles the issue of small boat crossings of the Channel.

Mr Sunak is meeting Tory MPs this afternoon after an incendiary resignation statement in the Commons by former home secretary Suella Braverman.

Flanked by her righting allies she warned the Tories face ‘electoral oblivion’ if they don’t get a grip on illegal immigration and demanded ‘notwithstanding clauses’ that allow human rights laws to be ignored.

The PM is walking a tightrope between warring wings of his party over whether to waive human rights rules to get the deportation flights to east Africa running in the spring after the Supreme Court ruled the previous plan was unlawful. 

The law, published this afternoon, seems closer to the ‘semi-skimmed’ option favoured by Tory moderates, but may go far enough to placate Ms Braverman’s allies. 

Former minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said ‘on initial reading’ the bill is ‘encouraging’, as he made his way to the 1922 Committee meeting with the PM. ‘It has the notwithstanding clause in it – that’s good. But we are waiting for the legal advice,’ he said.

But a source close to Mrs Braverman said: ‘This bill doesn’t come close to meeting Suella’s tests.

Rishi Sunak is facing a Tory pincer movement as he prepares to unveil emergency legislation on the Rwanda plan

A new law published tonight will seek to ‘disapply’ parts of the 1998 Human Rights Act in a bid to ensure flights take off before the next election.

Mrs Braverman took the rarely-used opportunity to give a resignation statement to MPs to issue an apocalyptic warning about the problem’s impact on Tory electoral chances.

Channel migrants are brought ashore in Kent over the weekend

Touring broadcast studios this morning, policing minister Chris Philp said the legislation would appear within ‘days’ and will do ‘whatever it takes to make sure that the Rwanda scheme is legally watertight and doesn’t get unpicked by the courts’

‘The Prime Minister has kept the ability for every single illegal migrant to make individual human rights claims against their removal and to then appeal those claims if they don’t succeed at first. It is fatally flawed. It will be bogged down in the courts for months and months. And it won’t stop the boats. It is a further betrayal of Tory voters and the decent patriotic majority who want to see this insanity brought to an end.’ 

Braverman took the rarely-used opportunity to give a resignation statement to MPs to issue an apocalyptic warning about the problem’s impact on Tory electoral chances if its ‘Plan B’ is not tough enough.

Flanked by leading figures on the Tory right including Liz Truss she said that the law must include a ‘nothwithstanding clause’ that would allow human rights laws to be sidestepped.

She also advocated for the creation of makeshift detention facilities along the lines of the Covid-era Nightingale Hospitals to house arrivals before they are sent to Rwanda. And she said MPs should sit over Christmas to get the law passed as soon as possible.

She asked: ‘All of this comes down to a simple question: who governs Britain? Where does ultimate authority in the UK sit? Is it with the British people and their elected representatives in Parliament? Or is it in the vague, shifting and unaccountable concept of ”international law”?’ 

Braverman’s five-point plan for immigration

  • Rwanda bill must overcome Supreme Court ruling about the safety of Rwanda as a place to send refugees
  • ‘Notwithstanding clause’ must ‘block off’ human rights objections to flights
  • Removal of Channel boat arrivals ‘within days’, and no legal challenges
  • Administrative detention of migrants until they are sent to Rwanda
  • Parliament to sits over Christmas to get bill into law 

‘It is now or never. The Conservative Party faces electoral oblivion in a matter of months if we introduce yet another Bill destined to fail. Do we fight for sovereignty or let our party die? I refuse to sit by and allow the trust that millions of people have put in us be discarded like an inconvenient detail.’

But centrist MPs are threatening to revolt against the law – due to be published tomorrow – if it goes too far in watering down international commitments.

Mrs Braverman said that while she backs the UK quitting the European Convention on Human Rights, she accepted the Government did not – and that it was ‘not the only way to cut the Gordian Knot’.

She unveiled her own five-point plan, which included the bill containing a ‘notwithstanding clause’ allowing the ‘the Human Rights Act, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Refugee Convention, and all other international law’ to be over-ridden.

Mr Sunak defended the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as Sir Keir Starmer mocked it as a costly ‘gimmick’ which is not making progress.

Coming under pressure over the plan at Prime Minister’s Questions he said the new Rwanda treaty is about addressing the concerns of the Supreme Court.

‘We will do everything it takes to get this scheme working so that we can indeed stop the boats and that’s why this week we have signed a new legally-binding treaty with Rwanda which together with new legislation will address all the concerns that have been raised,’ he said.

‘Because everyone should be in no doubt about our absolute commitment to stop the boats and get flights off.’

Mr Sunak said ‘deterrence is critical’ before criticising Labour for pledging to scrap the scheme, adding: ‘Once again instead of being on the side of the British people, he finds himself on the side of the people smugglers.’

Tory moderates said last night that they have received ‘assurances’ the PM will not proceed with the most radical option for resolving the stand-off with the Supreme Court over the flagship Rwanda scheme.

Mr Sunak has been examining the so-called ‘full-fat’ plan that would carve out the Rwanda scheme from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as advocated by many on the Tory Right.

Instead Mr Sunak is thought to be leaning towards a ‘semi-skimmed’ version of the legislation which could override the UK’s Human Rights Act but not the ECHR. This could limit legal challenges but leave open a right of appeal to Strasbourg.

A ‘skimmed’ version of the deal would simply see Parliament declare that, in the light of the new treaty signed with Rwanda yesterday, the African nation is a safe country to send migrants.

Downing Street insisted ‘no final decisions’ had been made on the legislation, which could be published as soon as tomorrow.

A source insisted the final legislative package would be ‘tough’. But a leading Tory moderate told the Mail No 10 had yesterday given private assurances that plans for setting aside the ECHR had been ‘dropped’.

The former Cabinet minister said: ‘There are people on the Right of the party shouting that we have to do this and the PM has flirted with it, but it is not necessary. 

‘It would not work and it now looks like it is not going to happen, which is a great relief and which makes it more likely we will actually get these flights going.’

Mr Sunak is understood to have been influenced by Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, who ignored ECHR rulings on prisoner voting for years without leaving it.

The former prime minister told peers yesterday: ‘There are occasions when the ECHR makes judgments as they did on the issue of prisoner votes when they said that it was absolutely essential that we legislated to give prisons the vote.

‘And I said I didn’t think that was the case, I think that should be settled by Houses of Parliament, and the ECHR backed down. So that sort of flexibility may well be necessary in the future.’

A Whitehall source said Mr Sunak was focused on what will work rather than ‘crowd pleasing’.

Supporters of the ‘full-fat’ plan, who include former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, argue it is the only way to guarantee the scheme is not subject to further debilitating legal challenges and ensure the first deportation flights take off before the next election.

Home Secretary James Cleverly was in Rwanda yesterday to seal a new treaty with his counterpart Vincent Biruta

But opponents, said to include senior Cabinet ministers, have warned the plan would damage the country’s international standing and put the Government on a collision course with judges who could block a new law, killing off hope of Rwanda flights next year.

Damian Green, who served as Theresa May’s deputy, said overriding the ECHR would be ‘the wrong thing to do’ and make it ‘pretty much impossible’ to get the legislation through the House of Lords.

Mr Green said the Government should ‘think twice’ before trying to limit the application of the ECHR or the Human Rights Act. 

Tory whips have warned as many as ten ministers could resign if the Government tries to override the ECHR, including Attorney General Victoria Prentis and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk.

But MPs on the Tory Right signalled they would continue to press for a ‘full fat’ option. 

Dozens are said to be ready to back an amendment to the legislation on the ECHR if Mr Sunak drops the plan. 

Mark Francois, of the European Research Group of Tory MPs, last night said the group’s lawyers would look for ‘unambiguous wording’ in the new plan that will ensure deportation flights can take place next year before backing it.

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