Tory right-wing ERG reject government's Rwanda plan - claiming Sunak's bill does not go far enough

11 December 2023, 13:08 | Updated: 11 December 2023, 14:05

Lawyers from right-wing Tory ERG group have claimed the government's Rwanda plans do not go far enough
Lawyers from right-wing Tory ERG group have claimed the government's Rwanda plans do not go far enough. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Rishi Sunak's proposed immigration law to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is in jeopardy after a prominent group of Conservative MPs published legal advice admonishing the government's plans, claiming the legislation does not go far enough.

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The European Research Group's so-called 'Star Chamber' of legal experts said the bill needed "significant amendments".

"The Bill overall provides a partial and incomplete solution to the problem of legal challenges in the UK courts being used as stratagems to delay or defeat the removal of illegal migrants to Rwanda," a letter from the lawyers of the prominent group of pro-Brexit MPs states.

The letter, however, does not explicitly state how the group of MPs will vote. They will meet this evening to decide whether or not to support the government's legislation.

The letter from the ERG's legal advisers says Sunak is correct in calling the bill the "toughest piece of migration legislation ever put forward by the UK government".

But the right-wing group says they "do not believe that it goes far enough to deliver the policy as intended".

Urging the government to come forward with changes to the bill, chairman of the group, Mark Francois, said: “The bells do not ring until 7pm tomorrow. There is a bit of time to pass between now and 7pm.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walks with Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron and Home Secretary James Cleverly at Horse Guards Parade, central London, Tuesday November 21, 2023
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walks with Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron and Home Secretary James Cleverly at Horse Guards Parade, central London, Tuesday November 21, 2023. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Home Office 'bullish' about Rwanda laws but Tory fringe groups sour on Sunak's migration plan

Read More: Gary Lineker sparks fresh impartiality row by signing letter calling on Rishi Sunak to scrap Rwanda scheme

Asked to confirm if the ERG will reject the bill, Francois said: "If I were you, I wouldn't assume anything until at least there has been a further meeting this evening," he says.

By publishing the so-called 'Star Chamber's' advice, the chairman said the group had "dropped the government a broad hint, now let's see how the government respond".

Simon Clarke, a former cabinet minister under Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, said the lawyer's advice was "very concerning".

"It does set out a number of quite clear and specific challenges to the Government on whether the legislation works. There is no point frankly in our relitigating this issue unless it does work," he said.

He said he would "really hope" the government would respond with changes to the bill that address the issues.

However, veteran Tory MP Sir Michael Fabricant, a member of the group, stressed that he would be voting for the bill on Tuesday.

Sir Michael said: "It is not perfect (no Bill ever is), but I agree with its principle: to deter the slavers providing dangerous channel crossings.

"Amendments can then be made later in the usual way."

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