Brits could get a vote on Rwanda plan in national referendum, Tory MP tells LBC, as Sunak fights to keep party together

7 December 2023, 18:46 | Updated: 8 December 2023, 00:07

Rishi Sunak is fighting to keep the Tory party together
Rishi Sunak is fighting to keep the Tory party together. Picture: Alamy/Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The Government could call a referendum on its policy to send migrants to Rwanda, a Tory MP has told LBC.

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Speaking to LBC, Tory MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on migration David Simmonds said the fight to get flights off the ground to Rwanda is "so significant" to the Government as it tackles illegal migration.

"This is so significant that it justifies going for a general election [or] potentially, as we have seen in the past, the Government might even consider a referendum on issues like this," Simmons told LBC's Tom Swarbrick.

It comes as Sunak faces growing unrest from both sides of the Tory party ahead of a key vote on emergency Rwanda legislation next week.

And the government has been warned by two top lawyers that the revised Rwanda plan could be doomed to failure because individual migrants would still be able to challenge orders to deport them, the Times reported.

Tory MP David Simmons speaks to LBC's Tom Swarbrick

Earlier today, Sunak defended his new Rwanda legislation at a spiky emergency press conference, saying next week's vote would not be treated as a confidence matter.

Mr Sunak insisted "I'm going to see this thing through" when he was pressed if he would call a general election if he fails to get his Rwanda legislation through Parliament.

Read More: Rwanda plan will succeed, Rishi Sunak insists at emergency press conference but denies new law is a vote of a confidence

Read More: Tories in turmoil as Rishi faces Rwanda revolt after Robert Jenrick quits over 'doomed' bill

He told a Downing Street press conference: "We've got to finish the job and I'm going to see this thing through.

"I'm confident I can get this thing done."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conducts a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room, as he gives an update on the plan to "stop the boats" and illegal migration
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conducts a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room, as he gives an update on the plan to "stop the boats" and illegal migration. Picture: Getty

He told the press conference: "This Bill blocks every single reason that has ever been used to prevent flights to Rwanda from taking off.

"The only extremely narrow exception will be if you can prove with credible and compelling evidence that you specifically have a real and imminent risk of serious and irreversible harm."

Asked if his government is a “joke” and a “laughing stock” on immigration, Mr Sunak replied: “Look at the results. You’ve been over in Calais, well the number of people crossing from France to the UK this year is down by a third, right? That’s the simple truth.”

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick quits after new Rwanda legislation unveiled

The Government was thrown into chaos yesterday after immigration minister Robert Jenrick resigned, citing irrevocable differences with its immigration policy.

Speaking to LBC's Andrew Marr on Wednesday evening, Laura Farris confirmed that Mr Jenrick had stepped down from his role following the emergency legislation announcement.

In a letter of resignation to Rishi Sunak, posted to Twitter, Robert Jenrick said the small boats crisis was doing "untold damage" to the country and the Government needed to place "national interests highly contested interpretations of international law".

The former minister said he felt compelled to resign - just hours after the emergency legislation was announced - because he has “such strong disagreements with the direction of the Government’s policy on immigration”.

Mr Sunak hit back at his former minister, accusing Mr Jenrick of "fundamentally misunderstanding" the new immigration law and said "if we oust the courts entirely we would collapse the entire scheme".

It signalled a huge blow to the prime minister, who is desperately trying to get asylum seeker flights to Rwanda, with Mr Jenrick acting as a long-time ally of Mr Suank prior to his resignation.

Tory MPs have bemoaned the "mess" their party has become, with some speculating there could even be another leadership contest on the cards.

Tory MP Dame Andrea Jenkyns argued Mr Jenrick's resignation 'may be the death knell' for Mr Sunak's time in Downing Street.It came after the former Home Secretary Suella Braverman warned the Conservatives face "electoral oblivion in a matter of months" if they introduce emergency Rwanda legislation which is "destined to fail".

The former home secretary delivered the warning in a personal statement to the Commons focused on what she called "mass, uncontrolled, illegal immigration" involving thousands of "mostly young men, many with values and social mores at odds with our own".

Mrs Braverman, who was sacked from her Cabinet job last month, questioned if the Government understands the "unsustainable pressure" placed on public finances and services, and the impact on community cohesion and national security.