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Home Office 'bullish' about Rwanda laws but Tory fringe groups sour on Sunak's migration plan
11 December 2023, 00:48 | Updated: 11 December 2023, 08:29
Rishi Sunak is facing a crunch day for his premiership as Tory fringe groups look set to announce they will vote down his revised Rwanda plan - despite the Home Office saying that they think the scheme would stop 99.5% of legal challenges.
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The Prime Minister is set to hear the voting intentions of up to 100 MPs belongoing to Tory fringe groups on Monday on his revised asylum policy.
Sunak needs to keep the rebellion below 56 abstentions or 28 votes against for the law to pass its second reading and pass to the House of Lords.
Sunak's allies, including David Cameron, have been canvassing for votes as the second reading on Tuesday looms.
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Asked about a possible rebellion, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: " We have a plan. It’s working; we’ve cut [Channel crossings] by a third... This plan would remove 99.5% of the challenges that go on at the moment to prevent people being deported when they come here through illegal people trafficking.
"I think that is worth us voting for. The Conservatives have a plan, which is starting to work, and I think colleagues should unite behind that".
A government source told The Guardian: “We are talking to colleagues, but we are confident this bill is extremely robust and makes the routes for any individual challenge vanishing small.
"This is the strongest possible piece of legislation to get Rwanda operational.”
Hardline Brexiteers from the European Research Group and other factions on the Conservative right will first hold a summit on the legislation tasked with reviving his asylum policy.
Veteran MP Sir Bill Cash will present the findings of his so-called "star chamber" of lawyers, but he has already signalled they do not believe the proposed law is fit to get the grounded £290 million scheme up and running, as it stands.
Then the more moderate wing of One Nation Conservatives will hold a separate evening meeting in Parliament before releasing a statement on their judgment.
Home Office modelling, seen by the Times, that suggests 99.5% of individual legal challenges submitted by asylum seekers will fail to block their deportation under the Bill, will be used by the Government to counter claims by right-wing critics.
The Prime Minister has tried to find a middle ground in response to the Supreme Court finding that plans to send to Rwanda asylum seekers who arrive on small boats are unlawful.
But some on the right believe it does not go far enough in casting aside international law, while moderates have concerns about its legal impact and about ordering courts to deem Rwanda a "safe" country.
Mr Sunak has told MPs the Conservatives must "unite or die", but it is unclear whether they will heed his warnings, as some of his possible successors court limelight.
Robert Jenrick, who resigned as immigration minister over the legislation, told the BBC on Sunday he will not support the "weak Bill that will not work".
But he said "we can fix this", raising the possibility he could abstain along with other opponents before trying to amend the legislation at a later stage.
That could spare the Prime Minister a damaging defeat during a perilous week that begins with a grilling at the official coronavirus inquiry.