Sunak does not rule out general election if Lords block Rwanda plan

Rishi Sunak insists he will make sure the courts cannot block him again, as ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports

Rishi Sunak has not ruled out calling a general election if the House of Lords blocks his plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, as it is expected to.

The PM plans emergency legislation to deem Rwanda a safe third country for migrants after the deportations policy was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court on Wednesday but it is understood peers would not approve any law which breaches international human rights obligations.

Asked whether he could be tempted to call an election in the event the proposal is blocked, Mr Sunak said: “It doesn’t have to take a long time to get legislation through – and that is a question for the Labour Party.

“We’re determined to get this through as quickly as possible. So the real question is: is the Labour Party going to stand in the way and stop this from happening, or are they going to work with us and support this Bill so we can get it through as quickly as possible?"

Asked a second time about taking his Rwanda plan to the country, he said: "Well, I think people just want the problem fixed. That’s what I’m here to do."

He added: “We can pass these laws in Parliament that will give us the powers and the tools we need. Then we can get the flights off and whether it’s the House of Lords or the Labour Party standing in our way I will take them on because I want to get this thing done and I want to stop the boats.”

It comes after former minister Simon Clarke urged the PM to call an election if the Lords blocks the plan.

"If it becomes clear that we cannot deliver this policy within the constraints of what the Lords would allow, then that is that is an issue which I think we could take to the country, and quite quite reasonably so," he told the BBC.

"This is not a sort of a trivial issue, or an incidental ones, in the eyes of millions of voters. This is fundamental to their confidence, specifically in this government, but more broadly in the ability of the British state to govern Britain."

The former home secretary has written a five-point plan to achieve the Rwanda scheme. She says it won't go ahead without amendments to the Immigration Act

Mr Clarke also urged the PM to back proposals from his former home secretary Suella Braverman to ensure the emergency legislation overrides any human rights laws which could prevent Rwanda flights taking off.

Ms Braverman, who was sacked on Monday as home secretary after a serious of controversial comments, laid out her five tests to ensure deportation flights of asylum seekers to Rwanda can take off, in an article for the Telegraph.

She called for an “end to self-deception” in government about its Rwanda plan which was blocked by the Supreme Court earlier this week after judges ruled it was unlawful.

Mrs Braverman, who was dismissed during a reshuffle this week, said the prime minister’s proposals to overcome the Supreme Court’s verdict were unlikely to succeed in removing asylum seekers before the next election.

She predicted that Mr Sunak’s two-part plan would likely get bogged down in both domestic and European courts as she proposed introducing legislation that “excludes all avenues of legal challenge”.

Mrs Braverman said a solution to the challenge of stopping migrants crossing the English Channel “demands of the government an end to self-deception and spin”.

“There must be no more magical thinking. Tinkering with a failed plan will not stop the boats,” she said.

The PM denied he was tinkering with the plan when talking to broadcasters at The Bolsover School in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

Asked if he was, Mr Sunak said: “No, as I said the progress we’ve made this year on tackling this issue is meaningful."

He added: “We’ve got to get the Rwanda plan up and running. I will do whatever it takes to make that happen. People are sick of this merry go round. I want to end it – my patience is wearing thin like everyone else’s."

Mr Sunak’s response to the Supreme Court judgment on Wednesday saw him announce that his administration plans to lay down emergency legislation to have Parliament deem Rwanda a “safe” country.

He also intends to broker a new legally binding treaty on top of the £140 million deal already struck with Kigali to take migrants arriving in Britain via small boats.

The yet-to-be-published treaty with Rwanda is expected to attempt to address the Supreme Court’s concerns around refoulement – the potential for refugees whose applications for asylum are rejected by Kigali to be sent back to the country they are fleeing from.

But Mrs Braverman, in her newspaper article, said that “amending our agreement with Rwanda and converting it into a treaty, even with explicit obligations on non-refoulement, will not solve the fundamental issue”.

Instead, she proposed that ministers address concerns raised by the five senior judges about Rwanda’s asylum and legal system by “embedding UK observers and independent reviewers of asylum decisions”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has committed to stopping the boats ahead of the next election Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

New legislation should be laid in Westminster to “exclude all avenues of legal challenge” so that international obligations, such as the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), are “disapplied by way of clear ‘notwithstanding clauses'”, she said.

The right-wing Conservative also suggested Parliament sit over Christmas to ensure the new emergency law can be passed before next year.

The Fareham MP said a new treaty with Rwanda would “still require going back through the courts”, a process that she predicted could take at least a year.

And even a victory in domestic courts would only mean the “saga would simply relocate to Strasbourg where the European court would take its time deciding if it liked our laws”, she added.

“That is why the plan outlined by the PM will not yield flights to Rwanda before an election if Plan B is simply a tweaked version of the failed Plan A,” said the former Home Office chief.

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