Sunak’s plans to ‘stop small boats’ are ‘a joke,’ says former minister

Law and Justice Policy & Politics

Rishi Sunak’s pledge to stop people arriving to the UK in small boats is doomed to failure senior Tory MPs have warned, ahead of the prime minister’s key bill being introduced to parliament on Tuesday.

One former minister called Sunak’s plans to stop small boats “a joke” and nothing more than electioneering to try and put “some clear blue water between us [Conservatives] and Labour.”

“Stopping the boats” is one of the PM’s five promises to the electorate. In an interview with the Mail on Sunday Sunak said: “Make no mistake, if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay,”

His plans include a so-called “rights brake” to legal protections given asylum seekers by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the UN’s Refugee Convention.

The “rights brake” aims to prevent legal challenges against deportations and includes restricting rights of appeal and judicial review. A legal duty will also be placed on the home secretary to detain and deport asylum seekers who enter the UK illegally. This will include children and women who could be held for 28 days before being returned to their home country or deported to Rwanda.

The Times reports that Sunak’s bill targeting small boats will also prevent asylum seekers ever claiming British citizenship.

A former Conservative minister told the Guardian: “The proposals, if you believe the briefings and the leaks, are a joke and I just cannot see how they will get on to the statute.

“They look like an attempt to go into the general election with some clear blue water between us and Labour. Propose a hardline law, have it stopped by the EU and the courts, blame lefty lawyers and Labour for being soft on immigration.”

The ex-minister continued: “The idea that the governments under Boris [Johnson] and Theresa [May] just failed to see this easy fix of circumventing laws with another law, without years of legal wrangling, just doesn’t wash.”

The number of people crossing the Channel in small boats has hit year-on-year records and is estimated to be around 60,000 per year. Almost 3,000 people have arrived so far this year – more than double the 1,200 who crossed in small boats during the same period last year.

Priti Patel signed a deal with Rwanda last year when she was home secretary to deport people from the UK to the African country. It has already cost UK taxpayers £120 million. Not a single person has been deported to Rwanda. King Charles III, who was then Prince of Wales, described the deal as “appalling”.

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