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Rishi Sunak hits back at Suella Braverman as Tory civil war spirals over Rwanda plan

Rishi Sunak hits back at Suella Braverman as Tory civil war spirals over Rwanda plan

Rishi Sunak on Friday dismissed claims by Suella Braverman that his new Rwanda plan is "tinkering" as her own proposals were slammed by a top Tory MP as acting as "Putin and Xi do."

The Government's Rwanda plan was shredded in the Supreme Court on Wednesday which branded it unlawful.

Mr Sunak responded by proposing a new blueprint which includes a new treaty with Rwanda and rushing emergency legislation through Parliament to declare the East African country as safe to deport asylum seekers to On despite a damning ruling by the Supreme Court.

But Mrs Braverman, who was sacked by the PM on Monday, dismissed his latest plans as "tinkering with plan A... (without) a serious alternative."On a visit to Derbyshire, asked if this was correct, the PM said: "No, as I said the progress we've made this year on tackling this issue is meaningful.

"The number of crossings are down by a third this year, because we're cooperating with working with other countries to crack down on the criminal gangs."

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.

"That's why our emergency legislation would make it crystal clear that Rwanda is safe for these purposes. It meets all the concerns that people have raised because of our new arrangement with them."

Mr Sunak also declined to comment on whether he would call a General election if the Lords block his emergency legislation designed to allow Rwanda deportation flights to take off.

Instead, the Prime Minister said it was up to Labour to help push through the new law.

"We're determined to get this through as quickly as possible.," he said,

Legal experts warn against rushing emergency new laws through Parliament as it can mean that they are not properly scrutinised and flawed.

Mrs Braverman has proposed rival plans to 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".

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.

However, Damian Green, leader of the One Nation group of Tory MPs in the Centre and Left of the party, unleashed a withering attack on the ex-Home Secretary.

He tweeted: "The second test is the most unconservative statement I have ever heard from a Conservative politician.

"Giving the state the explicit power to override every legal constraint is what Putin and Xi do. We absolutely cannot go there."

But Brexiteer former Cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke, disagreed with Mr Green.

Pressed on whether banning judicial reviews in these circumstances was an act of a dictator, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Clearly and with respect I don't accept that presumption.

"I believe that a sovereign Parliament, which is ultimately the supreme democratic embodiment of the land, going through all the checks and balances of our constitution, that is to say both the Commons and the Lords, is entitled to say that for the specific purposes of enabling a law which it has just passed to be delivered, is entitled in extremis to say that certain sections of other laws are disapplied for the purpose of ensuring that that is delivered."

He later tweeted: "The PM has said - absolutely correctly - that the British government will address illegal immigration. If the mainstream, moderate centre-right proves itself unable or unwilling to do so, be in no doubt that we will lose out to much more hardline (and actually extreme) voices." Sir Simon's comments came despite Boris Johnson's Brexiteer government being found by the Supreme Court in September 2019 to have unlawfully closed down Parliament as it sought to ram through its plans to quit the European Union.

Jonathan Jones KC, senior consultant at law firm Linklaters and honorary professor at Durham Law School, criticised Mrs Braverman's plan.

He tweeted: "For the sake of putting (at most) a few hundred people on a plane to a place recently found to be unsafe by our highest court [not a foreign court] - she wants the UK to breach every relevant international treaty on torture, mis-treatment, detention or fair process - she wants to remove *every right of legal challenge* in the UK courts.

"This is an attempt to rule outside the law."

Earlier on Friday morning, a Cabinet minister hit back at Mrs Braverman after she dismissed the Government's new Rwanda plan.

Mark Harper defended the PM's new proposals.

The Transport Secretary also stressed that Mr Sunak's new top team was stronger after his reshuffle on Monday which saw Mrs Braverman axed and emphasised his "confidence" in her replacement, James Cleverly.

Mr Harper told GB News: "All the steps that we have taken so far have had a big impact.

"We have reduced the number of people crossing the Channel by a third at a time when in other European countries we have seen the number of illegal migrants not going down but actually going up significantly.

"We have made a lot of progress. We've have got more to do.

"That is why we are bringing in that emergency legislation and concluding that treaty with Rwanda."

He added: "The Prime Minister set out his new team at the beginning of the week to strengthen the top team. I'm very confident in the Home Secretary.

"He set out very clearly in the House of Commons the steps that I have set out around concluding that treaty with Rwanda and bringing the emergency legislation before Parliament."

But Mrs Braverman on Thursday night called for an "end to self-deception" in Government about its Rwanda plan as she laid out her five tests to ensure deportation flights can take off.

The ex-Home Secretary said the Prime Minister's proposals to overcome the Supreme Court's verdict that the Rwanda policy is unlawful is 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".

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, 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.

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, where they might face torture, persecution and possibly even death.

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".

The Prime Minister has said he is aiming for the first removal flights to leave in the spring following the delivery of the reforms to his flagship policy.

But Chancellor Jeremy Hunt refused to commit to migrants who arrive via unauthorised means being sent to the east African country in 2024.

Speaking to broadcasters on Thursday, Mr Hunt said: "We are hopeful that because of the solutions that the Prime Minister announced yesterday we will be able to get flights off to Rwanda next year.

"We can't guarantee that."

Mr Cleverly, during broadcast interviews on Thursday, said he was "absolutely determined" to get a removal flight off the runway before the next election.

A general election is expected to be held next year, with Mr Sunak needing to call a vote by January 2025.

The British leader has made "stopping the boats" one of his five pledges to the electorate ahead of the next election.

The threat of being deported to Rwanda has been regularly touted by the Conservative Party leader and other senior Government figures as one of the ways that can help deliver the commitment.

The new treaty with Kigali could be published as soon as Monday, with the emergency legislation tabled a week later, according to The Guardian.

The Government's next steps on the Rwanda policy is expected to face opposition to its plans in the House of Lords.

Lord Sumption, a former Supreme Court judge, told the BBC the plan to use a law to declare Rwanda as safe is "constitutionally really quite extraordinary" and would "effectively overrule" a decision by the UK's highest court.

Under pressure from the right of the party, Mr Sunak has kept the threat of pulling out of the ECHR on the table for the future in his battle to deport migrants.