Tory backbenchers warn Sunak’s future could be decided by Rwanda ruling response

15 November 2023, 12:44

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister’s Questions. Picture: PA

The New Conservatives grouping of MPs said the judgment felt ‘existential’ for the party.

Rishi Sunak is facing unrest in the Tory ranks over the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Government’s Rwanda scheme is unlawful, with backbenchers warning his future could be decided by his response to the setback.

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 sending asylum seekers to the east African nation.

Backbenchers on the Tory right 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 (ECHR).

Other measures 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.

Speaking after a meeting of the group with other Tory MPs on Wednesday, co-chair Danny Kruger said: “The Government should immediately announce an intention to do what is necessary to insist on our sovereignty.

“That means legislation to override the effect of the European court, of the ECHR itself and of other conventions including the Refugee Convention if necessary.”

Co-chair Miriam Cates did not say whether she maintained full confidence in the PM when asked by journalists.

“He has said he will do whatever it takes to stop the boats. The next few days will show whether we’ve got the legislative power and the political will to do that.

Ms Cates added: “We will support him to do whatever it takes.”

Tory Party deputy chairman Mr Anderson said the Government should “ignore the laws” and send migrants back the same day they arrive in the UK.

He 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”.

“I think the British people have been very patient, I’ve been very patient, and now they’re demanding action. And this has sort of forced our hand a little bit now,” he said.

“My take is we should just put the planes in the air now and send them to Rwanda and show strength.

“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.”

Northern Research Group conference
Miriam Cates said the coming days will show whether there is the political will to move past the Supreme Court ruling (Danny Lawson/PA)

Jonathan Gullis, part of the New Conservatives grouping, said there was a range of options the Government could consider, including physically pushing small boats back into French waters in the Channel.

“Obviously disappointing, the decision today for the Government, but crucially we need to make sure that a plan B is quickly enacted in order to retain the trust of voters and to make sure that we do deliver on that pledge to stop the boats,” he said.

“Something that myself, Danny Kruger and Bill Cash pushed before which was a notwithstanding amendment, maybe bring that in as a notwithstanding Bill to disapply all conventions and treaties that we’ve signed up to, which have been a blocker, clearly, from the judgment of the Supreme Court in enabling to enact such policies.”

He said another option would be to “literally push boats back into French territorial waters … or if not, take more direct action and actually start returning people to the French shores rather than bringing them back over to British shores, regardless of any conflict that may end up with the French government.”

Meanwhile, Brendan Clarke-Smith, another Conservative MP from the 2019 intake, posted a picture on X, formerly Twitter, 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.

Mr Sunak has said Wednesday’s ruling is “not the outcome we wanted” but that the Government will consider next steps and has prepared for “all eventualities.”

“Crucially, the Supreme Court – like the Court of Appeal and the High Court before it – has confirmed that the principle of sending illegal migrants to a safe third country for processing is lawful. This confirms the Government’s clear view from the outset,” he said.

“Illegal migration destroys lives and costs British taxpayers millions of pounds a year. We need to end it and we will do whatever it takes to do so.

“Because when people know that if they come here illegally, they won’t get to stay then they will stop coming altogether, and we will stop the boats.”

By Press Association

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