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Conservative MPs Divided Over Whether New Rwanda Treaty Will Cut Illegal Migration


4 min read

Backbench Conservative MPs appear divided over whether the Government’s new asylum deal with Rwanda will cut illegal migration.

Home Secretary James Cleverly told the House of Commons on Wednesday evening that new “emergency” legislation would be moved forward tomorrow.

The announcement was soon overshadowed by the resignation of immigration minister Robert Jenrick, following speculation that he would leave if the delayed Rwanda asylum policy did not take the most hard-line option to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised to push through changes that would allow the UK to enact plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, after the initial plans were found to be unlawful.

A former cabinet minister told PoliticsHome they were trying to digest the new legislation, but felt that the Prime Minister was “running out of time”. “I can’t see how he fixes this,” they added.

A senior MP on the right of the Conservative Party, who wanted to take what has been dubbed a "full fat" approach, said they were unhappy with part of the bill - section four - which says individuals can launch individual legal challenges against their deportation. 

Another senior figure on the right of the Conservative Party told PoliticsHome the party had “no other choice” but to stick by the Prime Minister and back his new Rwanda plan. One more senior Conservative MP told PoliticsHome that in reality, "nobody will be happy until we see people leaving on planes". 

While they were in favour of making the Rwanda scheme work, they were insistent that leaving the ECHR would not be a viable solution, especially with a general election on the horizon, they added.

Speaking to PoliticsHome shortly before the legislation was published, they said it would not do the Conservatives "any favours" to be seen rowing back on human rights - though the published legislation then confirmed the Human Rights Act 1998 would be disapplied.

Former home secretary Suella Braverman made a speech in the House of Commons earlier on Wednesday, where she claimed if the Government did not “stop the boats” her party faced “electoral oblivion”.

Braverman said although she was in favour of leaving the ECHR, she acknowledged this may not be tenable within the required timescale. 

An ally of Braverman’s told GB News the Bill did not meet Braverman’s tests, which she set out in the Commons for the government to get the support of the right of the Party. A close aide told the broadcast channel the new legislation would not “stop the boats”.

“It is a further betrayal of Tory voters and the decent patriotic majority who want to see this insanity brought to an end,” the source added.  

On Wednesday afternoon a meeting was hosted by 1922 Committee with dozens of Conservative MPs present. Few MPs stopped to talk to journalists on their way out of the meeting.

Only a handful of Tory MPs made comments in passing saying they wanted to back the Prime Minister and the new legislation.

Former Conservative minister Paul Scully told journalists the government had made its pledge and the Party had to “come together”

“We talked about a lot of issues being central for the next election, including obviously the economy, but this is a pledge he made right at the beginning of the year and this is something we’re determined to do,” he said.

A number of One Nation Conservatives publicly backed the Bill. Responding to the new proposed Rwanda Bill, the centre-right caucus said it welcomed the government’s decision to “continue to meet the UK’s international commitments which uphold the rule of law.” However, a caucus source stressed that they would await legal advice before forming a firm conclusion.

“We will be taking legal advice from the former Solicitor-General Lord Garnier about concerns and the practicalities of the Bill,” they added.

A senior Conservative MP told PoliticsHome: "The acid test is whether we are complying with our international legal commitments in the human rights & refugee treaties. If we are then it becomes a lot better. Incompatibility with UKHRA just on the basis of novelty isn't nearly such a substantive concern."

Another One Nation Tory MP told PoliticsHome people were growing impatient with the “rhetoric” and needed to see migration numbers starting to come down. They said the rhetoric around Rwanda from the “right of the party” was distracting from actually tackling the issues around migration.

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