Rishi Sunak faces cabinet split over Rwanda deportation Plan B
The prime minister is said to be under pressure to use emergency legislation to disapply the Human Rights Act and tell courts to ignore the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in asylum cases.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick is believed to be among those pushing the PM to make the extraordinary move.
A senior government source told The Times the strategy was “mad”, saying the courts would go “ballistic” and questioning whether Mr Sunak would be willing to endorse it.
Another warned that the plan could lead to more legal challenges which would delay the Rwanda scheme further, saying: “There’s a real danger in sounding tough but failing to deliver.”
It comes after Mr Sunak promised emergency legislation to deem Rwanda a “safe” country and a new treaty with Kigali in a bid to address issues that led the UK’s highest court to rule the deportation scheme was unlawful.
But Suella Braverman, sacked as home secretary last week, claimed the PM’s “plan B” is “simply a tweaked version of the failed plan A”.
Ms Braverman has said that the UK’s domestic and international obligations – the Human Rights Act (HRA) and the European Convention on Human Rights – need to be made invalid in relation to Rwanda, by the use of “notwithstanding clauses”.
Despite having sacked his uncontrollable home secretary, Mr Sunak is considering some of her ideas.
The PM is said to be mulling a “semi-skimmed” option, which would try to disapply the HRA in asylum claims, and a “full-fat” option of using “notwithstanding clauses” to ignore the HRA and the ECHR in a way that is legal.
Stephen Hammond, deputy chair of the One Nation group of Tory moderates, has warned Mr Sunak against trying to get around human rights law with his Rwanda deportation plan B.
“Leaving the ECHR would be a red line for the One Nation [MPs] – the idea we would find ourselves in a group with Russia is beyond incredible,” Mr Hammond told The Independent.
“I’m very wary of trying to disapply treaties we’ve signed up to,” he said. “On [trying to disapply] the ECHR and the HRA, I’d be very cautious. It’s a view among large numbers of colleagues in the One Nation group.”
He added: “One of the things that has been most successful is the treaties like the one with Albania, we need to have more of those, so people arriving on boats can be sent back.”
A Conservative Party source told the Guardian that following Ms Braverman’s ideas “would tear the party apart. Several cabinet ministers and the [moderate] One Nationers would not stand for it”.
“The prime minister wouldn’t even get it through the Commons. Never mind that this wouldn’t placate the head-bangers on the right either.”
Mr Sunak’s updated Rwanda treaty is expected to be presented to MPs this week after chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement.
The treaty is expected to attempt to address the Supreme Court’s concerns around “refoulement” – the potential for refugees rejected by Rwanda to be sent back to the country they are fleeing.
Asked on Sunday whether the government would go further and leave the ECHR, Mr Hunt said: “We don’t believe at this stage that that is necessary … We don’t believe it will come to that, at this stage – we don’t want to do that.”
However, the chancellor added that the government was determined to stop “foreign judges” from deciding who comes to the UK. “In the end, our bottom line is clear – it is elected representatives in parliament that should make the decision.”