Rishi Sunak’s emergency Rwanda bill, which aims to allow the government to proceed with the scheme, led to Robert Jenrick’s resignation yesterday. At the same time, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the bill would not stop the boats. The PM must be painfully aware of the deep divisions between the left and the right of the Tory Party. Nevertheless, he appears hell-bent on proceeding with the legislation. It remains to be seen whether he can win the approval of his party opponents and get the bill through both Houses of Parliament.
Due before the House on Thursday, the draft law declares Africa a safe destination within UK law, meaning the government can send asylum seekers to Rwanda. But even though it grants MPs the right to disregard some human rights laws, it does not go far enough for right-leaning Tory MPs. The government has drafted the law in response to last month’s Supreme Court ruling, which essentially paused the Rwanda scheme. To sidestep the Court’s decision, the bill obliges courts to ignore critical elements of the Human Rights Act, thus paving the way for the Rwandan deportations.
The Rwanda scheme has been marred by numerous legal challenges, which the new bill aims to quell. Once passed by the two Houses, the Rwanda emergency bill will enable ministers to ignore European Court of Human Rights emergency orders. Thus, the government said, the legislation would “end the merry-go-round of legal challenges”. Yet, the draft bill concedes that it may not uphold minimum human rights safeguards.
Legal experts have pointed out that legal challenges may still be tabled, with the Supreme Court potentially again finding them incompatible and unworkable within human rights considerations.
The Prime Minister told reporters:
“Through this new landmark emergency legislation, we will control our borders, deter people taking perilous journeys across the Channel and end the continuous legal challenges filling our courts.”
The Labour Party has pledged to abolish the legislation once elected. Speaking in the House of Commons, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said:
“They’ve got open warfare among their backbenches, the starting gun fired on the next leadership election, and once again, the whole country paying the price for this chaos.”
Sunak may face leadership challenge over Rwanda emergency bill
Pressure will undoubtedly continue to build on the PM following Robert Jenrick’s resignation and Braverman’s outspoken criticism. The former Minister for Immigration and the sacked Home Secretary believe the proposed legislation will not end the immigration problems. Both feel the government should introduce much more far-reaching legislation, even if it means leaving the European Court of Human Rights.
On Wednesday, Braverman launched a public attack on the PM. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said:
“I want the prime minister to succeed in stopping the boats.
“He said he would do whatever it takes. I’m telling him there is a way to succeed in stopping the boats and fulfilling that promise.
“If we do it, if he does it as prime minister, he will be able to lead us into the next election, telling the people we have succeeded on this very important pledge.”
Mr Jenrick published his resignation letter on social media on Wednesday:
“It is with great sadness that I have written to the prime minister to tender my resignation as Minister for Immigration.
“I cannot continue in my position when I have such strong disagreements with the direction of the government’s policy on immigration.”
The PM responded by calling the resignation “disappointing”, one “based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation, adding it was “our experience that gives us confidence that this will work”.
In a letter, Rishi Sunak said the draft legislation was “the toughest piece of illegal migration legislation ever put forward by a UK government”.
“If we were to oust the courts entirely, we would collapse the entire scheme. The Rwandan government have been clear that they would not accept the UK basing this scheme on legislation that could be considered in breach of our international law obligations.
“There would be no point in passing a law that would leave us with nowhere to send people to.”
Conservative MPs are worried about a catastrophic electoral defeat. Still, so far, only Andrea Jenkyns has publicly called for a no-confidence vote in Sunak, telling the press that six colleagues had pledged support for such a motion, quite a low number considering 53 letters to the 1922 Committee are required to trigger a leadership contest.