Suella Braverman says Tories face 'electoral oblivion' if they fail on Rwanda plans

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman Credit: PA

Suella Braverman has made a punchy speech to parliament today about the Rwanda legislation. 

Calling for people arriving by boat to be immediately detained and held for their stay in new Nightingale detention centres (like the Nightingale hospitals during Covid) built by the Ministry of Defence, she also said the legislation must be protected from any human rights challenge.

She wants Mr Sunak to disapply the Human Rights Act, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Refugee convention.

And she called on MPs to sit over Christmas, warning “it is now or never".

"The Conservative Party faces electoral oblivion in a matter of months if we introduce yet another Bill destined to fail," she said.

"Do we fight for sovereignty or let our party die? I refuse to sit by and allow the trust that millions of people have put in us be discarded like an inconvenient detail.”

Suella Braverman warns 'the Conservative Party faces electoral oblivion in a matter of months'

Ms Braverman’s comments underline how Rishi Sunak is stuck between a rock and a hard place on this policy.

If he turns one way he will infuriate the right of his Conservative Party (many of whom respect Ms Braverman’s interventions), if he turns the other he faces rebellion from the liberal wing.

The challenge that the PM is trying to solve, sounds simple - get a plane filled with asylum seekers to leave for Rwanda before the next election.

But the complexities that lie beneath that statement are seemingly intractable - and risk sparking civil war among Tories.

The key for Mr Sunak and his newish Home Secretary, James Cleverly, is how to deal with the Supreme Court’s decision that the Rwanda policy is unlawful.

Home Secretary James Cleverly has said a new treaty with Rwanda addresses Supreme Court concerns. Credit: PA

The most important finding is that there is a risk of “refoulement” - where a genuine refugee is returned to their country of origin, from which they were fleeing persecution.

The Supreme Court gave examples like Rwanda refusing to give 100% of Syrians refugee status, when the vast majority would get that protection in the UK.

So, Mr Cleverly flew to Rwanda to sign a new agreement - this time a legally watertight Treaty in which the east African country promised that asylum seekers could stay there - and access housing and work - even if their asylum claim is rejected.

Now the government is ready to put forward legislation in the UK to try to prevent the new Treaty facing legal challenge that could result in it getting snarled up in the courts (and making the chance of a plane going to Rwanda less likely).

And that is where the tension lies.

For those on the right there is only way to make parliament genuinely sovereign when it comes to that legislation, and that is to include within the Bill explicit clauses that would “disapply” the three pieces of human rights law that Ms Braverman called for.

And it is true that senior lawyers I speak to believe that the new Treaty is still challengeable.

One said it failed to deal with any of the substance of the Supreme Court judgment - that Rwanda’s asylum system can’t cope with numbers and that the country has ignored international treaties in the past and mistreated asylum seekers.

They are prepared to challenge this up to Strasbourg, something that would make it much harder for the pm to send off a flight in time.

But for those on the left, any attempt to sidestep international treaties (the European convention or refugee convention) would be devastating.

One very senior Tory once told me previously told me that any attempt to leave the ECHR would “detonate” the party - arguing the Good Friday Agreement was underpinned by it.

A member of the more liberal One Nation caucus told me enough was enough, “we are going to fight this”.

But if that’s Mr Sunak’s rock then from the right the hard place.

To appease the liberal side of the party - it’s being suggested that the PM will disapply the HRA (which the One Nation MPs won’t love but I suspect can live with) but not the international agreements.

But if he does that, one MP on the right told me: “We want it stated explicitly and in unambiguous terms that Parliament is sovereign," - arguing that a promise from the PM to block foreign courts in future wouldn't do. 

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