Pressure mounts on Sunak to U-turn on climate summit snub

Rishi Sunak. Credit: PA

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak heads into his first full week in office with pressure mounting over his COP27 snub and reappointment of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary.

He is considering a U-turn on his decision not to attend the United Nations climate conference in Egypt next week, according to reports.

His earlier insistence that he must focus on the “depressing domestic challenges” rather than go to the summit sparked a backlash in the Tory ranks.

The Government’s climate tsar Alok Sharma said he was “disappointed” by the move, while Tory former chancellor George Osborne asked why Mr Sunak would “trash” the party’s record on the environment.

Questions about Ms Braverman’s return to the Home Office, six days after she was forced out, also continue to dog the Prime Minister.

A leaked email threw fresh doubts over the Home Secretary’s claim that she rapidly reported her mistake in sending a sensitive document to a Tory backbencher and parliamentary staffer from a personal account without permission.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s conduct is under intense scrutiny. Credit: PA

The email, obtained by the BBC, appeared to contradict her timeline, as Ms Braverman asked the recipient to “ignore and delete” her original message several hours after it was sent.

Mr Sunak has resisted calls for an inquiry into the matter as Labour prepares to force the Government in Parliament to release risk assessments of the breach.

The Government is also facing demands for a probe into another security issue, amid reports that former PM Liz Truss’s phone was hacked by Russian agents.

Liz Truss's phone was reportedly compromised. Credit: PA

Ms Braverman has also come under scrutiny for her handling of worsening conditions at the Manston asylum processing centre in Kent, where alleged overcrowding only intensified as 700 people were moved from a Dover migrant centre that was firebombed.

She is considering housing migrants in hotels alongside the public instead of reserving entire hotels, in a bid to relieve overcrowding, the Telegraph reported.

Ms Braverman allegedly failed to heed legal advice that migrants were being detained at the facility for unlawfully long periods, the Sunday Times reported.

But Cabinet colleague Michael Gove rejected claims she ignored any advice and defended her as a “first-rate, front-rank politician”.

People arriving at the Manston facility in Kent Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Mr Gove also urged people to judge the Government “by our actions” on the environment rather than COP27 attendance.

But Lord Deben, chairman of the Climate Change Committee, warned the UK’s bid to tackle emissions was “off track”.

The peer told the Independent it would be “very valuable” for Mr Sunak to go to the climate summit.

Allies of the Prime Minister indicated he might go after all, the Financial Times and i reported.

The sources said that while dealing with the economic crisis is his priority, he could go to Egypt if enough “progress” is made on preparing the November 17 budget, according to the newspapers.

Downing Street has been contacted for comment.

Alok Sharma was demoted from Cabinet when Rishi Sunak became PM. Credit: PA

Mr Sharma, the outgoing COP26 president who was recently demoted from Cabinet, told the Sunday Times he was “pretty disappointed that the Prime Minister is not going”, saying attendance would send a signal about the UK’s “renewed commitment on this issue”.

Mr Osborne said Mr Sunak had “mishandled” the situation.

Touting the Tories’ environmental record, the ex-chancellor told Channel 4’s The Andrew Neil Show: “Why trash that because you don’t want to get on a plane to Egypt?”

Speculation that Boris Johnson, Mr Sunak’s predecessor at No 10, could go to the UN conference has increased pressure on the Prime Minister.

It added to a wider dispute over UK representation, after the King was advised by Downing Street not to attend the Sharm El-Sheikh summit.

King Charles will host a reception for 200 guests, including US climate envoy John Kerry, at Buckingham Palace on Friday to mark the climate conference, with Mr Sunak due to say a few words.

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