Government advisers have warned Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plan has a “50% chance at best” of succeeding before the next general election.
Victoria Prentis, the attorney-general, has been warned the legislation around the plan has a significant risk of being held up in the European Court in Strasbourg. It raises concerns the court would be able to block flights from taking off.
The advice was signed off by Sir James Eadie, the UK’s most senior legal adviser when it comes to issues of national importance. Sir James lef the defence of the Rwanda policy when it was challenged in the Supreme Court this year.
The legal advice is based around the threat of the European Court of Human Rights granting an interim injunction to ground flights, reports The Times. It would be a similar move to what happened in June last year.
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The new Rwanda bill aims to give ministers the power to ignore interim injunctions in Strasbourg. But there has been some disagreement in government over whether this would be against Britain’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Sunak has said he would comply with the UK’s human rights obligations. However he is said to be confident ignoring an interim injunction would not breach Britain’s rules.
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The legal advice around the flights is based on an assumption they would take off in April at the earliest. However, the flights are becoming a growing bone on contention among Conversatives as the Prime Minister looks to win support from backbench MPs ahead of a crunch vote next week.
The Rwanda bill will also give migrants the chance to lodge appeals against deportation based on their circumstances. The government is said to be confident it can prevent injunctions in domestic courts, because it has set a “very high” bar for a claim to be successful.
The Prime Minister is expected to ask his MPs to unite and back the Safety of Rwanda Bill this weekend. A source close to Sunak said: “Rishi believes we now need to come together and show the country that it’s us and only us that actually has a plan to deal with illegal migration, and Labour have nothing to offer. It’s time for unity.”
While earlier this week the PM told Conservatives they must “unite or die”. He said: “We need this bill to pass the Commons with a strong majority, that’s how we’ll put pressure on the Lords. We need to make crystal clear to them the will of the elected house.”
The next general election must be held in 2024. However current Conservative MPs are split by the Rwanda plan, with rebels expected to wait until the latter stages of its journey through the House of Commons before introducing amendments.
The government is said to be open to compromises around the bill, despite Sunak saying the new law was the “only approach” to tackling migration. While Sir Matthew Rycroft, the Home Office permanent secretary, was summoned to meet MPs after revealing the cost of the scheme had doubled.
He revealed Rwanda had been paid £100 million in April and estimates an additional £50 million will be handed over next year. This is on top of the £140 million bill from last year.
The Home Office is said to be publishing an evidence pack next week that will attempt to counter criticism of the Rwandan asylum and judicial system that informed the Supreme Court’s decision to rule the policy unlawful last month. It will argue Rwanda is not an unsafe country to send asylum seekers, claiming the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees sent 162 refugees to the nation a day after the Supreme Court blocked a flight.
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