Rishi Sunak’s plan to deport migrants to Rwanda will fail unless he opts out of European human rights law, Suella Braverman has said.
In her first article since being sacked, the former home secretary attacks the Prime Minister’s approach and sets out her own five-point plan to end the deadlock over deportation flights to Rwanda.
She warns that the Prime Minister’s proposed new treaty with Rwanda and law declaring it a safe country would not enable the flights to take off before the general election, calling it a “tweaked version” of the failed Plan A rather than an effective Plan B.
Instead, Mrs Braverman calls for new emergency legislation to block “all avenues of legal challenge” against the flights by excluding them from the “entirety” of European and human rights laws.
This would be coupled with amendments to the Rwanda agreement to answer the criticisms by the Supreme Court, which ruled the policy unlawful on Wednesday, new rules to deport migrants more quickly, tougher powers to detain illegal migrants and a commitment to deliver the legal changes by the Christmas recess.
“There is no longer any chance of stopping the boats within the current legal framework,” Mrs Braverman writes. However, she adds: “Now is not the time to waste energy on a post-mortem of how we got here. What matters for those of us who believe in effective immigration control is how to move forward.
“This requires honesty. Above all, it demands of the Government an end to self-deception and spin. There must be no more magical thinking. Tinkering with a failed plan will not stop the boats.”
Her intervention will be seen as an appeal to MPs to support amendments likely to be laid when the Government introduces its emergency legislation later this month.
On Thursday, Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, admitted that the Government could not guarantee migrant flights would take off next year, while James Cleverly, the new Home Secretary, said “the timescales that we are looking at can vary depending on circumstances”, although he was “absolutely determined” to make it happen before the election.
Mr Sunak faces the legislation being thwarted by the Lords, with peers branding it a “constitutional outrage” and “profoundly discreditable” on Thursday and warning that it would be “completely bogged down” by “constructive obstruction” and “eternal ping-pong”.
The Prime Minister’s treaty is expected to be published on Monday, and the emergency law will be introduced a week later.
The legislation will declare Rwanda safe and bar anyone from lodging a legal challenge against the policy as a whole. Individual migrants will, however, still be able to appeal against deportation by using human rights law and other domestic and international legislation.
Under the legally binding treaty, to be approved by Parliament, Rwanda will commit not to deport anyone sent there by the UK. This aims to prevent any deported migrants from being sent to their home country where they could face persecution, the reason why the Supreme Court ruled the original plan unsafe.
However, Mrs Braverman says the treaty and new law would not answer a “fundamental” problem identified by the Supreme Court that Rwanda could not be trusted to fulfil its commitments not to remove anyone.
“To try and deliver flights to Rwanda under any new treaty would still require going back through the courts, a process that would likely take at least another year,” she says.
“That process could culminate in yet another defeat, on new grounds, or on similar grounds to Wednesday, principally that judges can’t be certain Rwanda will abide by the terms of any new treaty.
“Even if we won in the domestic court, the saga would simply relocate to Strasbourg, where the European court would take its time deciding if it liked our laws.”
She says the Rwanda agreement could be amended to address the Supreme Court’s concerns without the need for a new treaty, including embedding UK observers and independent reviewers of asylum decisions.
“What is crucial is that they are practical steps to improve Rwanda’s asylum system,” she adds.
She demands clauses excluding any legal challenge to deportation, saying: “The entirety of the Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights, and other relevant international obligations, or legislation, including the Refugee Convention, must be disapplied by way of clear ‘notwithstanding’ clauses.
“Legislation must therefore circumvent the lengthy process of further domestic litigation, to ensure that flights can take off as soon as the new Bill becomes law.”
She calls for new laws to reduce time limits before illegal migrants are removed, and automatic detention without the right to appeal until deportation.
“This must be treated as an emergency. The Bill should be introduced by Christmas recess and Parliament recalled to sit and debate it over the holiday period,” she adds.
On Thursday, No 10 rejected calls by Mrs Braverman and other Right-wing Conservative MPs to include clauses barring legal challenges under human rights law.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that broadening the scope of the new legislation would create room for opponents to challenge it.
“This would cause further delays to flights taking off,” a source said. “We’re aiming to make the fixes we need to as quickly as possible.
“Wholesale changes could present additional challenges which would stop or slow down delivering on what the public want to get, which is to get this partnership up and running, which is to get flights in the air and ultimately to stop the boats.
“As the Home Secretary said, we believe that the approach we’re taking through the treaty and the legislation addresses the concerns raised by the courts. By taking that approach, we think that is the fastest way to getting flights in the air.”
Mr Sunak has insisted he is willing to change domestic laws and “revisit international relationships” if there are still obstacles by the spring to flights taking off.