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Rishi Sunak Denies He Is Merely "Tinkering" With Stalled Rwanda Plans


4 min read

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has denied that he is just “tinkering” with his original plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda by bringing in emergency legislation and a new treaty with the African country after the Supreme Court found that the original proposals would be unlawful.

Sunak has pledged to bring forward a new treaty with Rwanda that he hopes will tackle concerns about the safety of sending asylum seekers to the country, and also bring a new law before Parliament in an attempt to block further legal challenges to the policy, which has faced numerous hurdles. 

During a visit to a school in the East Midlands on Friday, Sunak was asked whether proposed changes to Rwanda plans were “just tinkering” because he does not “really have a serious alternative”.  

Sunak denied the characterisation. “We've got to get the Rwanda plan up and running. I will do whatever it takes to make that happen," he told broadcasters. 

“People are sick of this merry-go-round, I want to end it. My patience is wearing thin like everyone else's, that's why our emergency legislation would make it crystal clear that Rwanda is safe for these purposes. It meets all the concerns that people have raised because of our new arrangement with them.” 

He also reiterated his desire to prevent challenges to the plans in domestic and foreign courts.  

Writing in The Telegraph today, former home secretary Suella Braverman – who was sacked on Monday over incendiary claims about protesters and homeless people – said that the Rwanda debate “demands of the government an end to self-deception and spin”. 

“Tinkering with a failed plan will not stop the boats,” she added. 

The Prime Minister also swerved the question of whether he will call an election if the plans are blocked and took the opportunity to call for the Labour Party to back his plans. 

“It doesn’t have to take a long time to get legislation through, that’s a question for the Labour Party," he said. 

“We’re determined to get this through as quickly as possible, so the real question is, are the Labour Party going to stand in the way and stop this from happening, or are they going to work with us and support this bill so we can get it through as quickly as possible?

“I know that the British people want this problem gripped, I know the British people will want this new law to pass so we can get flights off to Rwanda.” 

Yesterday PoliticsHome reported of the potential challenges the new legislation could face when it reaches the House of Lords in its journey through Parliament. 

Dr Alice Lilly, senior researcher at the Institute for Government, told PoliticsHome that there has to be a “certain amount of political willingness” for legislation to get through quickly, and the fact that the plans are “politically so contentious” could slow things down. 

Ministers will want their "emergency legislation" to clear Parliament as quickly as possible, but Lilly predicted that "if there’s going to be somewhere that the government has a problem, it’s probably going to be in the House of Lords”. 

Braverman’s article in the Telegraph today also contained five tests she wants Sunak to meet by amending the Illegal Migration Act, which passed through Parliament earlier this year. 

She said the changes should address the Supreme Court’s concerns about Rwanda, enable flights before the next general election by disapplying rights legislations, including “ the entirety of the Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights, and other relevant international obligations.” 

She also said ministers should make sure people are removed in days not months, detaining people who arrive in the UK illegally, and that the bill should be introduced ahead of Christmas, with MPs recalled to debate it over the recess period. 

In a sign of how the policy has risked opening up fractures within the Tory Party, former Cabinet minister Damian Green claimed on social media last night that Braverman’s second test was “the most unconservative statement I have ever heard from a Conservative politician”. 

“Giving the state the explicit power to override every legal constraint is what Putin and Xi do," he said. 

“We absolutely cannot go there.” 

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