After the Supreme Court ruled the government’s Rwanda migrant removal scheme unlawful yesterday, both the PM and home secretary vowed to push the policy through nevertheless. Rishi Sunak promised emergency legislation to declare Rwanda a safe country, whilst James Cleverly told Sky News that ‘Plan B’ is ready. The ruling is a significant blow to the PM’s immigration policy, one of his key campaign pledges. Emergency legislation is now to rescue the scheme, with Cleverly and Sunak insisting on its feasibility and power as a deterring factor for migrants. Speaking on Sky News, the new home secretary said that the policy had already made an impact:
“The deterrent effect of Rwanda is already having an effect in the thinking of the people smugglers because we know – we interview people when they get here – we know that the Rwanda scheme is talked about among the people smugglers and about the people who would put their lives and money in the hands of these people smugglers.”
The issues raised by the Supreme Court, namely that Rwanda may not be safe for migrants, are to be addressed by a legally binding treaty, which the government hopes to introduce shortly. The new home secretary told the news channel he had “detected – basically – some very lazy attitudes” about an African nation like Rwanda. Mr Cleverly added that ministers were “absolutely determined” to see migrants travel to Rwanda before the next general election. The legally binding treaty is to be ready “within days”, paving the way for the government to push the policy through. He revealed that the government had been planning for a ruling against the policy, preparing a memorandum of understanding with the Rwandan government, which can become a legally binding treaty.
He said: “We have a memorandum of understanding with the Rwandan government, which we are going to upgrade to a treaty which is legally binding to make sure we address the specific points.
“It is ready, pretty much now, to turn into a treaty. That can be done within days, not weeks or months, days. The legislation can go through the House [of Commons] quickly.”
When pressed on whether it would be necessary for the UK to leave the European Convention on Human Rights, James Cleverly told Today:
“I don’t believe that will be necessary. I believe that we can act in accordance with international law, and we are very determined to do that.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper recalled Cleverly saying that the government’s Rwanda policy was “batshit”, a word he now denies ever using. James Cleverly previously supported Liz Truss.
Senior legal figures express serious concerns over the government’s plans to proceed
The government’s bullish reaction to the Supreme Court ruling deeming Rwanda an unsafe destination for migrants has raised serious concerns among senior legal figures. Speaking on the News at 10, Jonathan Sumption, a former Supreme Court justice, said:
“I have never heard of them trying to change the facts by law. For as long as black isn’t white, the business of passing acts of parliament to say that it is profoundly discreditable.”
Echoing the sentiments, the chair of the Bar Council, Nick Vineall KC, spoke of “grave concern” among barristers about the government’s plans to legislate out of a supreme court ruling centring on fact-finding.
“If parliament were to pass legislation the effect of which was to reverse a finding of fact made by a court of competent jurisdiction, that would raise profound and important questions about the respective role of the courts and parliament in countries that subscribe to the rule of law.”