Ministers 'absolutely determined' to deport migrants to Rwanda before election

James Cleverly has told ITV News the government is 'doing everything in its power' to get the flights running Credit: PA

Ministers are still "absolutely determined" to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda before the next election, the new home secretary has said, despite the Supreme Court ruling the plan unlawful.

James Cleverly was unable to guarantee the policy would get off the ground in the next year but told ITV News the government is "doing everything in our power" to address the court's concerns and "make sure those flights take off".

The Supreme Court blocked the plan because it could not be sure Rwanda would not break international law by returning asylum seekers to their country of origin.

Rishi Sunak, however, believes he can satisfy the courts by signing a new treaty with Rwanda and have Parliament emergency legislation which would say the country is safe.

But Mr Cleverly said he did not want to "speculate" when asked by Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana whether a failure to force the policy through would represent a failure by his government.

Home secretary tells ITV News he is 'absolutely determined' to see Rwanda deportations

He also did not deny privately criticising the Rwanda plan as "bats***" before taking over as home secretary from Suella Braverman, who once said she dreamt of seeing deportation flights depart.

Reacting to the ruling on Wednesday, Mrs Braverman said the government must “legislate or admit defeat” as she called for measures to override both the European Convention on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act and other “routes of legal challenge”.

Mr Sunak is so far resisting pressure from the Tory right to pull the UK out of the EHCR but vowed in a press conference on Wednesday: “I will not allow a foreign court to block these flights.”

It comes amid huge concerns in the Conservative Party that electoral success next year rests upon the government's ability to achieve the prime minister's top aim to “stop the boats”.

Despite ministers working to broker a new legally binding treaty on top of the £140 million deal already struck with Kigali, many lawyers believe the Rwanda deportation plan has no chance of being legally approved.

Former Supreme Court judge Lord Jonathan Sumption told the BBC the “profoundly discreditable” plan to use a law to declare Rwanda as safe is “constitutionally really quite extraordinary”.

He argued it will “effectively overrule a decision on the facts, on the evidence, by the highest court in the land”.

Even if MPs do approve emergency legislation to deem Rwanda a safe third country, it is expected the government will face opposition to its plans in the House of Lords.

Lord Sumption, often a critic of the human rights court in Strasbourg, said the plan “won’t work internationally. It will still be a breach of the government’s international law obligations”.

But Mr Cleverly dismissed the criticism, telling the BBC: “Find me two lawyers and I will give you three opinions.

“Lawyers argue all the time, that’s literally what they do. I have very eminent lawyers who take a different view.”

The PM, in his Wednesday press conference, said he wanted to "end the merry-go-round” of legal challenges blocking deportations.

“So I’m also announcing today that we will take the extraordinary step of introducing emergency legislation.

“This will enable Parliament to confirm that with our new treaty, Rwanda is safe.”

He said it will also “make clear that we will bring back anyone if ordered to do so by a court”, meaning migrants sent to Kigali could then be brought back to the UK.

Yvette Cooper accused Mr Sunak of “making more promises and chasing more headlines”.

The shadow home secretary said: “Rishi Sunak just keeps making more promises and chasing more headlines on boats, without ever delivering on the commitments he’s made already.

“Conservative ministers knew what the problems were with the Rwanda scheme 18 months ago – if they thought this was the answer, why didn’t they do it long ago?"

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...