Rishi Sunak has staked his political credibility on pushing through emergency legislation to resurrect his high-profile plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, after the supreme court ruled it was unlawful.
At a press conference held on Wednesday, which was organized quickly after the proposal was unanimously rejected by five judges, Sunak declared that a new law would put an end to the constant cycle of legal disputes by establishing that the east African nation is a safe place.
Facing mounting pressure from the conservative faction within the party, Sunak stated that he would not consent to withdrawing from the European convention on human rights (ECHR) and allowing a foreign court to interfere with these flights. However, he did not reveal his strategy for preventing this interference.
The prime minister stated that they are willing to take the required actions to resume flights. They will not choose the simpler path, as they stood at a podium displaying the phrase “stop the boats”.
According to him, a proposed alternative agreement with Rwanda would include legal assurances preventing individuals deported from the UK from being sent back to their countries of origin.
According to sources in Whitehall, it could take over a year to formalize a treaty with Rwanda, which would replace the previous memorandum of understanding. However, there is a possibility that the treaty could be contested in court.
The highest legal decision, delivered by Lord Reed, the president of the court, stated that all five judges concurred with the court of appeal’s ruling that there is a genuine possibility of incorrect decisions being made on asylum claims in Rwanda. This could lead to individuals being incorrectly sent back to their home country and facing harm.
He referenced proof from the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, which demonstrated the ineffectiveness of a comparable deportation deal between Israel and Rwanda.
The ruling determined that there were significant reasons to believe that sending the claimants to Rwanda would put them at risk of being mistreated.
Despite some Tory MPs expressing strong disapproval of the decision, such as Conservative party’s vice-chair Lee Anderson suggesting that Sunak should disregard the laws and immediately return the migrants, the PM acknowledged and valued the ruling but intends to find a solution to work around it.
Sunak’s eagerness to swiftly pass laws may face obstacles if his proposal is met with resistance in the House of Lords, which appears probable. The Liberal Democrats expressed on Wednesday evening that Sunak’s approach was merely “reinforcing a previous mistake.”
The Bar Council cautioned that enacting a law to overturn this decision would raise significant and complex concerns regarding the roles of the courts and parliament.
Sunak did not specify when the legislation may be implemented, nor did he explain how it would address the supreme court’s ruling that the Rwanda plan violates three current UK laws.
During Sunak’s press conference, he mentioned that the government is exerting significant effort to stick to their timeline of the first flights departing in the spring. However, he refused three times to provide a guarantee that this would occur before the next election.
A potential delay is expected to anger Conservative MPs on the party’s right side, who are vehemently advocating for ministers to implement laws that would block the ECHR and UN Refugee Convention in UK legislation. This action would also concern moderate Tories and could have consequences for the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Soon after the media briefing, the New Conservatives faction, led by Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger, who are both backbenchers with populist leanings within the Tory party, stated that a bill of this nature “needs to be presented to parliament in a matter of weeks and must contain all necessary measures to ensure that flights resume within a few months”.
Suella Braverman’s allies, who had previously called for emergency legislation alongside other Tory backbenchers, responded even more harshly to her dismissal as home secretary by Sunak on Monday due to multiple controversies.
One of Braverman’s allies stated that he is enacting a treaty through legislation, but it is essentially just a revised version of his original plan. They predict that this will lead to another legal battle. The ally also criticized Rishi for relying on unrealistic ideas.
According to a previous government official, the agreement will likely face legal challenges while they are in the process of losing their positions. They also criticized the emergency measures as being deceptive, stating that the current approach is a departure from traditional conservative values and instead relies on the former prime minister. The situation cannot continue in this manner.
Sunak is likely hoping that his aggressive stance during the press conference will ease concerns among other MPs. When asked about his support for Anderson’s suggestion to disregard the ruling, he stated that these remarks demonstrate the strong sentiment in the country.
Sunak expressed that his patience is wearing thin, just as the country’s patience is also wearing thin. Therefore, he stated that all necessary measures will be taken to eliminate any obstacles in implementing this policy and ensuring that flights depart as scheduled in the spring of next year.
He refrained from guaranteeing that he would leave the ECHR, stating that he would instead “review our international connections to eliminate any hindrances” and emphasized that other nations, such as Italy, are considering implementing comparable policies of deporting individuals to third countries.
Several Conservative lawmakers have suggested a complete reassessment of the Rwanda proposal in favor of alternative methods to prevent small boats from crossing the Channel.
Natalie Elphicke, whose Dover constituency sees the bulk of such arrivals, told Times Radio: “I think that the supreme court’s decision today is very clear and we need to move forward from the Rwanda focus.
The court stated that the UK can potentially make outsourcing agreements, like other countries do. However, there must be a strong emphasis on the current risk of people smugglers becoming more confident during the winter season.
During his speech in the House of Commons, James Cleverly, who is now serving as the home secretary, downplayed the concept of withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Yvette Cooper, the opposition party’s spokesperson for home affairs, implied that Cleverly had previously made a private remark describing the Rwanda plan as “crazy”, a comment that Cleverly did not explicitly deny.