Conservative splits emerge ahead of Rwanda migration law

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The government hope the Rwanda plan will deter people arriving in the UK on small boats
By Sam Francis
Political reporter, BBC News

Splits have emerged in the Conservative Party over Rishi Sunak’s flagship Rwanda legislation, ahead of its publication in the coming days.

Home Secretary James Cleverly signed a new treaty with Rwanda on Tuesday, after the Supreme Court found previous plans unlawful.

His predecessor, Suella Braverman, has argued the UK must override human rights laws to push through the plan.

But MPs from a different section of the party described this as a “red-line”.

The prime minister is due to announce emergency legislation in “days, not weeks”, Home Office minister Chris Philp told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Mr Sunak promised the bill to deal with concerns raised last month by the Supreme Court over the government’s scheme to send asylum seekers to east Africa.

It is designed to work in conjunction with the new treaty, which will see the UK pay for Rwandan authorities to process asylum applications for people who come to the UK.

The new agreement will mean that the UK will also pay for British and Commonwealth judges to preside over a newly established appeals process as well as the costs of all legal fees from anyone sent to Rwanda.

Conservative splits

Mr Philp told the BBC the bill will “do whatever is needed to implement” the Rwanda scheme.

The BBC understands centrist Tory MPs are worried Mr Sunak may be considering Mrs Braverman’s plans to disregard human rights law.

Mrs Braverman, the former home secretary, has previously argued that the bill should ignore “the entirety” of the Human Rights Act (HRA) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as well as other relevant international obligations including the Refugee Convention.

Another option is for the bill to declare Rwanda a safe country.

The BBC understands Mr Sunak is hoping to steer a middle course between those options.

The One Nation Caucus, which has a current membership of 106 Conservative MPs, called on the prime minister to “think twice before overriding” either the ECHR and HRA.

Former deputy prime minister Damian Green, who now chairs the One Nation Caucus, said: “Successive Conservative governments have played a vital role in creating and protecting the ECHR as well as the Refugee and Torture conventions.

“We have continued to hold these treaties dear and they should be seen as fundamental to part of protecting the UK’s democratic legacy.”

Matt Warman, a leading member of the group, said: “Overriding the ECHR is a red line for a number of Conservatives. Protecting and reforming institutions and upholding human rights should be the cornerstone of any Conservative government.”

Mark Francois, the chair of the right-wing European Research Group (ERG), said the group would not back any new legislation that does not “fully respect the sovereignty of Parliament, with unambiguous wording”.

The ERG, an influential group among Brexit-supporting MPs, said they would only support the bill if it won the approval of the group’s “star chamber” of legal experts chaired by the veteran MP Bill Cash.

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