Sacked home secretary Suella Braverman has demanded that Rishi Sunak introduces “emergency legislation” blocking off the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) after the Rwanda policy was scuppered by the Supreme Court.
Less than 24 hours after her scathing attack on the Prime Minister’s leadership, the former minister intervened again to tell the Government to bring forward new measures or “admit defeat”.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, she said the judgment was “no surprise” to people close to the process, adding: “Given the current state of the law, there is no reason to criticise the judges. Instead, the government must introduce emergency legislation.”
Measures to prevent both the ECHR and the Human Rights Act working as barriers to the scheme would need to be central to any Bill, Mrs Braverman said, echoing the demands made by other MPs on the Tory right.
Mr Sunak on Wednesday announced emergency legislation to enable Parliament to deem Rwanda a safe destination for asylum seekers, but it does not appear to go as far as the demands being made by the ousted ex-minister.
The Prime Minister is facing wider unrest in the Conservative ranks after the scheme to send asylum seekers to the east African nation was ruled to be unlawful by five of the UK’s most senior judges.
The New Conservatives grouping of MPs said the judgment felt “existential” for the party, while deputy chairman Lee Anderson said ministers should “ignore the law” and start removing asylum seekers immediately.
Backbenchers on the right of the party are now calling for a drastic overhaul of the UK’s rights and treaties framework, potentially going beyond their previous suggestion of overriding the European Convention of Human Rights.
Other moves to disapply treaties such as the Refugee Convention should now be considered if necessary given the scope of the judgment, the New Conservatives have argued.
Mr Sunak’s strategy is to seek an upgraded agreement with Rwanda that will address the concerns of the Supreme Court and to introduce emergency laws to empower Parliament to “confirm” that Kigali is safe.
But the measures have failed to fully appease the group, with co-chairs Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates saying the solution would need “more than a declaration”.
“Glad PM is bringing forward emergency legislation,” they said in a message posted on X.
“But it will need more than a declaration that Rwanda is safe. We can’t wait for ECHR to intervene: we must move now to ensure that this time, finally, there is simply no opportunity for rights-based claims against deportation.
“The Bill must disapply the Human Rights Act and give effect to the policy *notwithstanding* the ECHR and Refugee Convention.”
Ms Cates earlier did not say whether she maintained full confidence in the PM when asked by journalists after a meeting of the group in Parliament.
Mr Anderson described the Supreme Court judgment as a “dark day for the British people” and said ministers should “just put the planes in the air now and send them to Rwanda”.
“It’s time for the Government to show real leadership and send them back, same day. I think we should ignore the law and send them straight back the same day,” he said.
The Prime Minister refused to condemn Mr Anderson’s suggestion that ministers defy the court’s decision but insisted the rule of law is “fundamental” to the UK’s democracy, saying he would respect and accept the judgment.
In a 56-page ruling, five of the UK’s senior judges agreed that there had not been a proper assessment of whether Rwanda was safe for asylum seekers and that the country’s history “cannot be effectively ignored or sidelined”.
None of the £140 million the UK has already spent can be clawed back and a new upgraded agreement with Kigali announced by Mr Sunak is expected to add even more to the costs, with Labour accusing the Government of wasting taxpayer cash.
Jonathan Gullis, part of the New Conservatives grouping, had earlier said there was a range of options the Government could consider, including physically pushing small boats back into French waters in the Channel.
Following the Prime Minister’s press conference later on Wednesday in which he announced emergency legislation but said the “devil will be in the detail.”
“This seems to be a step in the right direction, but we will need to make sure we go as far as we need to go too,” he told Times Radio.
Meanwhile, Brendan Clarke-Smith, another Conservative MP from the 2019 intake, posted a picture on social media of a 2016 Daily Mail headline suggesting judges were “enemies of the people” over a ruling on Brexit.
“We’ve been here before,” he wrote.
He later insisted he had not been attacking justices of the Supreme Court but making a point about the “democratic choices” of British people, adding: “Like we did then with Brexit, we solved the problem in Parliament and it’s my intention to make this happen again.”
Former Cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke said the Government’s response to the legal setback would be a “confidence issue” in Mr Sunak’s judgment as a Prime Minister.
He suggested emergency legislation would have to be put forward “at a minimum” to assert Parliament’s sovereignty.
It comes after Mrs Braverman accused the Prime Minister of being “uncertain” and “weak” in an incendiary letter where she claimed she had agreed to be his home secretary on “certain conditions”, including a number commitments on migration.
Former deputy prime minister Damian Green offered support for Mr Sunak following his press conference.
Describing the proposals as “perfectly measured”, he said he was glad the Prime Minister was not heeding calls to ditch the ECHR.
“I am a rule of law man. I think Government should obey the law. If we sign international treaties, we should stick to them,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.
In the Commons, Home Secretary James Cleverly resisted calls to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights and the international Refugee Convention, telling Tory MPs: “I don’t believe those things are necessary.”
He added that “national governments can’t just vote themselves out of international commitments” and as a former foreign secretary he knew they were “incredibly powerful tools as we try and do good around the wider world”.
But the Prime Minister said that “if it becomes clear that our domestic legal frameworks or international conventions are still frustrating the plans at that point, I am prepared to change our laws and revisit those international relationships”.