Tory Faction Contends Rishi Sunak's Rwanda Law Doesn't Go Far Enough

PA Media

   A faction of Eurosceptic Tory MPs, known as the European Research Group (ERG), has expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the bill central to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Rwanda asylum plan. The ERG argues that the proposed law, designed to overcome legal obstacles, falls short of adequately delivering the intended policy.

While the ERG has not yet decided whether to support the bill in the upcoming vote on Tuesday, divisions among Tory MPs from various factions are evident, with considerations on whether to endorse the legislation at its initial stage.

A potential rebellion by Tory MPs could pose a significant challenge to Sunak's central policy and undermine his authority. The ERG conducted a legal analysis of the Safety of Rwanda Bill, appointing a group of lawyers to scrutinize it. The outcome was a setback for Sunak, with the ERG asserting that the bill only provides a partial and incomplete solution to legal challenges hindering the removal of illegal migrants to Rwanda. The group suggests that substantial amendments are necessary to address these issues.

Mark Francois, chairman of the ERG, recommended that the government withdraw the bill and develop a revised version that better addresses the concerns raised.

Downing Street responded by stating that the government would continue to consider MPs' views but maintained confidence that the bill is robust enough to achieve its objectives.

The European Research Group's (ERG) legal analysis contends that the proposed bill still allows individuals to challenge their deportation to Rwanda if their specific circumstances pose a risk of serious harm. This, according to the ERG, introduces a "significant risk to the delivery of the scheme."

In an effort to address concerns and garner support, the government has released a summary of its legal position on the plan. The document asserts that the bill permits "an exceptionally narrow route to individual challenge." Examples provided include cases involving individuals in advanced pregnancy unfit for air travel or individuals with extremely rare medical conditions that cannot be adequately addressed in Rwanda.

The document emphasizes that blocking all court challenges would violate international law and go against the UK's constitutional commitment to liberty and justice. It concludes that the government's approach is both tough and fair, aiming to uphold international obligations.

The proposed Rwanda bill has led to divisions among Conservative MPs. Some more moderate Tories argue that the bill risks violating the UK's international legal obligations toward refugees. Centrist One Nation Conservatives are set to convene a separate evening meeting in Parliament before issuing a statement regarding their stance on the matter.

Earlier, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps urged Members of Parliament to back the bill, dismissing claims of chaos in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's leadership regarding the Rwanda asylum policy.

Shapps expressed confidence that the legislation would successfully pass in the House of Commons, emphasizing that he had "no doubt at all" about its approval.

While it's uncommon for a bill to face defeat at its initial Commons stage, Labour and opposition parties have signaled their intention to vote against it. This means the government must secure sufficient support from Tory MPs for the bill to progress.

There is speculation that some Tory critics might opt to let the bill pass at this stage, potentially by abstaining, with the hope of obtaining concessions from the government during subsequent Commons proceedings.

Last week, the government introduced the legislation intending to send individuals seeking UK asylum to Rwanda, following the Supreme Court's ruling last month, deeming the policy unlawful. The bill aims to establish in UK law that Rwanda is a safe country, preventing legal challenges that could ground flights.

The Rwanda policy is a component of the government's strategy to deter migrants from making the perilous Channel crossing in small boats. Sunak has identified "stopping the boats" as one of the government's top priorities, responding to a record 45,774 individuals undertaking the journey last year.

Charm offensive

Leading up to the vote, the government has shared modeling indicating the potential impacts of the Rwanda bill.

According to Home Office modeling conducted earlier this year, it is projected that 90% of individuals appealing against deportation to Rwanda would have their appeals rejected by the government within 10 to 12 days of arriving in the UK. This rejection is anticipated because they would reportedly fail to provide evidence demonstrating serious harm if deported to Rwanda.

In cases where 10% are granted permission to appeal to an immigration tribunal, only 5% are expected to have their appeals accepted, while the rest would be sent to Rwanda, according to the model.

These projections are part of a document created in March during discussions about the illegal migration bill, back when Suella Braverman held the position of home secretary and Robert Jenrick was immigration minister. Both Braverman and Jenrick, who have since criticized the emergency legislation for not going far enough, argue that the bill needs to be more robust. Jenrick resigned from his government role last week, citing concerns over the issue.

The government, in its effort to persuade concerned Conservative MPs, has shared a modeling document, initially reported by The Times and seen by the BBC, outlining the anticipated effects of the Rwanda bill.

This move aims to address concerns among Conservative MPs who worry that a significant number of appeals could be successful. Critics of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak argue that the Supreme Court's recent ruling, declaring Rwanda as an unsafe country for asylum seekers, alters the context from when the modeling was conducted. They assert that more appeals would likely succeed under the current circumstances.

A skeptical senior Tory source described the model as "outdated and analytically flawed." The source emphasized that there was no modeling done for the new Rwanda bill and criticized the lack of planning, pointing out that even the old model, which is optimistic, suggests that it could take more than two months to remove a migrant. The source remarked that the situation would be comical if it weren't so serious.