Sunak to ‘cut through middle’ on Rwanda plan in bid to appease ‘majority’ of Tory MPs as ministers threaten to quit

6 December 2023, 00:56 | Updated: 6 December 2023, 01:42

Rishi Sunak is hoping to appease the 'vast majority' of Tory MPs with the new legislation.
Rishi Sunak is hoping to appease the 'vast majority' of Tory MPs with the new legislation. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Rishi Sunak is hoping to appease the 'vase majority' of Tory MPs with the new Rwanda legislation as he is reportedly opting for an approach that 'cuts through the middle'.

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Home Secretary James Cleverly signed a new treaty with Rwanda on Tuesday, hailing the new deal as far more ‘robust’ than previous proposals.

As the legislation text is finalised, sources have claimed that the Prime Minister has adopted an approach that he hopes will appease the “vast majority” of Tory MPs amid fears of rebellion.

He has reportedly ruled out any hardline approaches to the treaty, which would have seen the UK opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) on asylum cases.

Such hardline options have been favoured by several MPs on the right of the party, such as immigration minister Robert Jenrick.

To appease those on the right, it is thought Mr Sunak will disapply sections of the Human Rights Act to prevent any domestic legal challenges from halting the flights to Rwanda.

As they finalise the details of the legislation, a source told The Times: “They are finding a way that cuts through the middle that uses some of the words that the right want but won’t lead to mass resignations of the ministers concerned about our international standing.”

Read more: 'Thousands of asylum seekers will be taken in from UK', Rwandan Govt tells LBC, but criminals will be sent back

Read more: Home Secretary James Cleverly hails ‘robust’ new Rwanda migrant treaty designed to get planes in the air next spring

Rishi Sunak wants to appease the 'vast majority' of Tory MPs with the new legislation, reports have claimed.
Rishi Sunak wants to appease the 'vast majority' of Tory MPs with the new legislation, reports have claimed. Picture: Alamy

It comes amid reports that as many as ten ministers, including four cabinet ministers, have threatened to quit if Sunak were to instruct courts to ignore the ECHR on asylum matters under the new deal.

The majority of MPs at risk of quitting are said to be members of centrist group, One Nation.

Damian Green, chairman of One Nation, said: “The government should think twice before overriding both the ECHR and Human Rights act and not rush such long-term, difficult decisions.”

It is also thought, however, that Mr Sunak will attempt to appease MPs on the right by indicating he would be willing to reassess Britain’s membership with the ECHR if the courts continue to block the new legislation.

Reports have suggested the bill could be poised for publication on Thursday - although Downing Street has said it would not be rushed.

“They are being very opaque about what exactly is in the bill but we have been told not to worry about the ECHR,” one Tory MP said ahead of the new treaty signing.

“The danger is that it satisfies no one but let’s see what is in it.”

Rwandan spokesperson Yolande Makolo defends the country's political system

Mr Sunak has also privately told ministers that there must be no perception that Britain is breaching its obligations under the ECHR, to avoid any comparisons with Russia and Belarus, according to reports.

The latter two countries were expelled from the ECHR last year after Russia invaded Ukraine.

It comes after the Supreme Court blocked the government’s flagship Rwanda plan in November as judges ruled it was unlawful.

The plan proposed to send migrants who arrive in the UK illegally to the East African country to deter future small boat crossings in the Channel.

Announcing the new treaty on Wednesday, James Cleverly said “we feel very strongly that this treaty addresses all the issues raised by their lordships in the Supreme Court.

“We are absolutely committed to breaking the business model of these people-smuggling gangs, to create a safe and welcoming environment with our friends and partners in Rwanda.”

Mr Cleverly touched down in Kigali as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's mission to make the deal to send migrants to Rwanda legally watertight following the Supreme Court ruling.

Under the new treaty, British taxpayers will fund the cost of housing for migrants relocated to Rwanda for the first five years, as well as legal bills, recreational activities and job training.