Politics: Priti Patel says UK Government ‘won’t be deterred’ by Rwanda flights legal challenges

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Politics: Priti Patel says UK Government ‘won’t be deterred’ by Rwanda flights legal challenges
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Priti Patel has told the House of Commons the Government will press ahead with its plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda despite an 11th-hour legal ruling by a European court which halted the first departure.

A flight holding seven migrants was due to leave on Tuesday evening but was halted at the last minute following an injunction by the European Court on Human Rights.

"We believe that we are fully compliant with our domestic and international obligations, and preparations for our future flights and the next flights have already begun," she told MPs.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper branded the Rwanda policy a "shambles” saying “This is not and never has been a serious policy”.

Good morning

10:34 , Daniel Keane

Good morning and welcome to the Evening Standard’s live politics blog, where we’ll be bringing you the latest from Westminster.

We’ll be bringing you live updates from Prime Minister’s Questions, set to kickoff at midday as usual.

Today’s PMQs comes on another busy week for the PM as he seeks to push ahead with his controversial Rwanda deportation policy and changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

EU to launch legal action over NI Protocol

10:39 , Daniel Keane

The EU has announced fresh legal action against the UK as part of a series of measures in response to the Government's move to unilaterally scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The two new infringement proceedings announced on Wednesday relate to alleged UK failures around Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks on agri-food produce entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

The EU is issuing formal notices of action in respect of the two new infringement proceedings, alleging that the SPS checks are not being carried out properly, with insufficient staff and infrastructure in place at the border control posts at the ports in Northern Ireland.

Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said the Bill is "extremely damaging to mutual trust and respect between the EU and the UK".

"It has created deep uncertainty and casts a shadow over our overall co-operation, all at a time when respect for international agreements has never been more important," he said.

"That is why the Commission has today decided to take legal action against the UK for not complying with significant parts of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland."

PM ‘knew what he was signing up for’, says Sefcovic

10:46 , Daniel Keane

European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said Boris Johnson's Government knew what it was signing up to when it agreed the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He told reporters in Brussels: "I'm sure the UK Government knew perfectly well what they signed up to when they agreed to the protocol - although I have to admit they didn't do a very good job explaining it to the public.

"Most importantly, it is legally inconceivable that the UK Government decides what kinds of goods can enter the EU single market."

Sefcovic: Dispute could end in trade war

10:55 , Daniel Keane

Mr Sefcovic warned that the dispute could ultimately lead to a trade war.

He acknowledged that this could result in tariffs or even the suspension of the entire Brexit deal between the UK and European Union.

Asked about potential further action against the UK, he told reporters in Brussels: "If this draft Bill becomes the law then I cannot exclude anything.

"But we are not there yet and we want to solve this issue as the two partners should, through negotiations, looking for the common ground and delivering for the people of Northern Ireland."

The European Commission vice-president warned the UK against simply ignoring any European Court of Justice rulings on breaches of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

"Not respecting the European Court of Justice rulings would be just piling one breach of international law upon another," he said.

EU has ‘no intention’ to interfere with NI Government, says Sefcovic

11:07 , Daniel Keane

Mr Sefcovic said the European Union had “no intention” to interfere with the formation of a Government in Northern Ireland after the DUP refused to enter a power-sharing arrangement as a result of the Protocol.

He told a press conference in Brussels: "We respect first and foremost the the Good Friday/Belfast agreement in all its dimensions.

”We do not seek a political victory, what we want is to find a workable, long-term solution ... giving the legal certainty to the operators in Northern Ireland how the protocol would be implemented...

"What we need is the political will from London to engage with us, to work on smoothing operations and implementation of the protocol and to do it in a way that brings lasting benefits for the people of Northern Ireland".

Furious Tory MPs call from exit from ECHR

11:17 , Daniel Keane

Furious Tory MPs have called on the Government to withdraw the UK from the European Court of Human Rights after it blocked a deportation flight to Rwanda at the eleventh hour on Tuesday.

According to The Times, a number of Tory MPs vented their fury in a WhatsApp group last night.

James Sunderland, the MP for Bracknell, said: “Did we expect any less? Outrageous that the UK is still beholden to the ECHR as a sovereign nation.”

Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, wrote on Facebook: “It is clear that the ECHR prevented the flight from departing, after efforts in UK courts were exhausted.

“The ECHR has no place in the UK judicial system. The government needs to free itself from it entirely!”

Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey denied that there was any plan to leave the Court, saying: “I don’t think that’s even a question that I’m aware is on the table at all.”

Watch: Johnson faces EU legal row after plan to rewrite Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal

11:33 , Daniel Keane

Half of rail lines to close during strikes

11:42 , Daniel Keane

Half of Britain's rail lines will be closed during next week's strikes, Network Rail said.

Network Rail said no passenger services will serve locations such as Penzance in Cornwall, Bournemouth in Dorset, Swansea in South Wales, Holyhead in North Wales, Chester in Cheshire and Blackpool, Lancashire.

There will also be no passenger trains running north from Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Pictured: Boris Johnson leaves for PMQs

11:52 , Daniel Keane

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Starmer asks PM why UK is set for low economic growth

12:04 , Daniel Keane

PMQs has begun.

Sir Keir Starmer begins by paying tribute to soldiers who served in the Falklands War, including his uncle who served in the conflict.

He asks why Britain is set for lower growth than every other major economy except Russia.

The PM responds by saying the UK is actually set to see growth according to alternative projections.

“We have the nighest number of people on the payroll than any other period,” he adds.

PM calls on Starmer to end ‘silence’ over rail strikes

12:07 , Daniel Keane

The PM calls for Sir Keir to end his “sphinx-like silence” over rail strikes.

Sir Keir responds: “He’s in government, he could do something to stop the strikes… he hasn’t lifted a finger.

“He wants the country to grind to a halt so he can feed off the division.”

“As for his boasting about the economy – he thinks he can perform Jedi-mind tricks.

“No rules were broken, the economy is booming… the problem is the force just isn’t with him anymore.

“He thinks he’s Obi Wan Kenobi – he’s actually Jabba the Hutt.”

Starmer says tax rises ‘throttling’ growth

12:10 , Daniel Keane

Sir Keir Starmer says that the PM’s tax rises are “throttling growth”.

Referring to the PM’s alleged comment saying “F*** business” during Brexit negotiations, he says: ““When did screwing business turn from an ignorant comment to economic policy?”

The PM says Labour would raise taxes, adding: “No Labour government has ever left office with lower unemployment than when it came in.”

Sir Keir attacks PM over Tory divisions

12:14 , Daniel Keane

Mr Johnson repeats his attack on Sir Keir over rail strikes.

“I give him the opportunity to voice his disagreement with the strikes,” he says.

Sir Keir says he “does not want” the strikes to go ahead.

“They are making a lot of noise but I know what they really think of him,” he says.

He mentions comments made by Tory MPs about Mr Johnson prior to the no confidence vote, including him “losing authority”.

“Which one of you was that?” he gestures to the Tory benches. “Put your hand up.”

PM is ‘conservative Corbyn’: Starmer references Tory MPs’ insult

12:17 , Daniel Keane

Sir Keir reads out a long list of comments made by Tory MPs.

It includes claims from one MP that Mr Johnson is the “conservative Corbyn”, suggesting that the prime minister is now toxic in the doorstep.

“I don’t think that was intended as a compliment,” Sir Keir says.

Scotland ‘being held back by Westminster’, says Blackford

12:19 , Daniel Keane

The SNP’s Westminster leadr Ian Blackford says that Scotland has started a “conversation” over its independence after Nicola Sturgeon launched a fresh campaign for IndyRef2 yesterday.

“The evidence is overwhelming: Scotland is being held back by Westminster,” he says.

Mr Johnson says there are “other subjects in the national conversation” that are more important than Scottish independence.

Watch: Sir Keir Starmer pushes Boris Johnson on economic growth

12:21 , Daniel Keane

PM: People don’t know what Lib Dem policies are

12:24 , Daniel Keane

Sir Ed Davey says “millions of families” are suffering over the cost of living and that rural families are “especially hurting”.

He mentions the rising price of fuel, pointing out that some counties in England are not eligible for the Government’s rural fuel duty relief.

The PM mentions a number of policies that ministers will introduce to relieve the burdern on families.

“The blissful fact of the Liberal Democrats are people don’t actually know what their policies are,” he says.

Watch: Starmer accuses Boris Johnson of ‘not lifting a finger’ on rail strikes

12:27 , Daniel Keane

PM: Labour should come out and condemn rail strikes

12:31 , Daniel Keane

Liz Twist MP, for Blaydon, says that ministers have not held “any talks” on rail strikes set to take place next week.

“Has the PM met with trade unions and employers to attempt to bring this dispute to an end?”

Mr Johnson responds: “One Union baron has said that they won’t negotiate with the Tories.

“We know how much money the Labour frontbench take from the RMT... they should come out and condemn it.”

Patel begins statement to MPs over deportation flight

12:45 , Daniel Keane

PMQs has come to a close.

Priti Patel is making a statement to MPs over the deportation flight to Rwanda, which was cancelled following a legal challenge by the European Court of Human Rights.

“I welcomed the decisions of our domestic courts to uphold our rights to send the flight,” she says.

“Minutes before our flight’s departure had their removal directions paused while their claims were considered.

“I want to make this clear - the ECHR did not rule that the policy was unlawful. Those prohibitations for those on the flight last for different time periods but are not an absolute bar.

“The decision by the Strasbourg court was disappointing, we remain committed to this policy.

“These barriers are similar to those we receive for other deportation flights.”

Patel: Inaction is not an option

12:48 , Daniel Keane

The Home Secretary says that inaction is “not an option”.

“People have drowned at sea, suffocated in lorries… the humane and decent response is not to stand by - it is to stop this.

“Inaction is not an option… This is a complex, longstanding problem.

“The global asylum system is broken and between 80-100 million people are displaced.”

Patel: I am saddened by attacks on Rwanda

12:51 , Daniel Keane

She says: “The UK and Rwanda have shown the way forward by working together and this partnership sends the message that illegal migration will not be tolerated.

“It has saddened me to see Rwanda so terribly misrepresented in recent weeks.

“It is another example that critics don’t know what they’re speaking about and vilify another country with a good record on refugees.”

We won’t be deterred by legal action, says Home Secretary

12:52 , Daniel Keane

Ms Patel says the Government “won’t be deterred” by legal challenges.

“This Government will not be deterred from doing the right thing – we won’t be put off by the inevitable last minute legal challenges,” she says.

“And we won’t allow mobs to block removal vans.

“We won’t accept that we have no right to control our borders, we will do everything necessary to keep this country safe.”

Cooper attacks ‘shambolic’ Rwanda policy

12:57 , Daniel Keane

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has branded the cancelled Rwanda deportation flight a “shambles”.

“It is shameful and the Home Secretary has no one but herself to blame,” she says.

“This is not and never has been a serious policy and she knew that when she chartered the plane.

“She knew those on the plane were torture and trafficking victims.”

She asks whether the Home Office “knew” there wasa problem with the cases before the flight prepared to depart with just seven people onboard on Tuesday.

“What is she hiding - will she tell us how much she promised Rwanda for each of the people she planned to send yesterday?”

Ms Cooper also mentions concerns over human rights violations in Rwanda, particularly for LGBT people and refugees.

Cooper: Patel should be working with French ministers

13:00 , Daniel Keane

Ms Cooper says that a similar deal on asylum seekers struck between Israel and Rwanda “increased criminal smuggling”.

“If she was serious, she would be working with France to stop the boats getting into the water in the first place.

“But her relationship with Frech ministers has totally broken down.”

She adds: “This is a shameful policy and she knows it.

“It’s not in the public interest - it’s in the Government’s interest.”

We are looking to ‘break business model’ of smugglers, says Patel

13:03 , Daniel Keane

Ms Patel says the UK is not the only country to be examining the policy, noting that Denmark are looking into a similar scheme.

“We are looking to break the business model of people smugglers,” she says.

“The logic of the opposition is that Rwanda is a wonderful country, good enough to host international summits, but not good enough to host refugees.

“Labour don’t have a single workable solution. They are clutching at straws when they come to speaking about money - you can’t put a price on lives lost.”

ECHR’s decision-making process was ‘opaque’, says Patel

13:07 , Daniel Keane

Ms Patel questions the ECHR’s decision to block the flight.

She says the ECHR’s decision-making process was “opaque” and said ministers were waiting on the legal details.

UK could leave EHCR, hints Downing St

13:12 , Daniel Keane

Downing Street has said the Government will do "whatever it takes" to ensure deportation flights to Rwanda go ahead.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the Government would consider the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights but that "all options are on the table".

Asked if the Government could withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, the spokesman said: "We are keeping all options on the table including any further legal reforms that may be necessary.

"We will look at all of the legislation and processes in this round."

Asked if a flight could go ahead before legal proceedings in the UK are complete, the spokesman said: "That is my understanding."

Patel says she won’t comment on ‘operational costs’

13:23 , Daniel Keane

Ms Patel says she “won’t speak about operational costs” for privacy reasons.

She claims this is due to “commercial sensitivities” about how the Home Office runs its operations, adding that it is “right to protect” commercial operators.

Rail strikes ‘should not be going ahead’, says Labour

13:27 , Daniel Keane

A Labour spokesman has said the party does not believe next week’s industrial action should be going ahead.

“We don’t believe that the industrial action should go ahead, we can’t be any clearer than that.”

German ambassador says EU ‘still open to dialogue’ over Protocol

13:38 , Daniel Keane

Germany's ambassador to the UK has said the EU is still open to dialogue over the Northern Ireland protocol but that Britain has shown no "real willingness to engage".

Miguel Berger told the BBC's World at One programme: "I think this is a very serious issue, but let me really underline that we are willing to negotiate.

“We are willing to find solutions. So far what we have not seen from the British Government is a real willingness to engage in negotiations."

The ambassador said that a number of proposals put forward by the bloc, including a willingness to introduce express lanes, which would allow for easy, reduced trade controls, had been largely ignored by the UK.

He said this would be similar to the Government's "green and red channel" plan, but that the EU could not allow a green channel with no controls, nor for the UK to "dictate" how to access the internal market.

"What is not acceptable is a green channel without controls," Mr Berger said.

Patel urged to fix ‘process and resources’ in Home Office

13:55 , Daniel Keane

Labour MP Chi Onwurah MP asked Priti Patel to fix issues of "process and resources" in the Home Office "instead of hiding her incompetence behind desperate refugees".

The Home Secretary said: "She will know perfectly well... that asylum decisions were not being made during the pandemic and those interviews were not being granted because many of them were face to face, and now we have reformed the system to actually put many more online and things of that nature."

Attorney-General repeats ECHR warning

14:11 , Daniel Keane

Asked whether the Government is considering pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Attorney General has said "all options are on the table".

Suella Braverman said many people would likely be "frustrated" that a foreign court had cut across parliamentary statute in preventing the flight to Rwanda taking off.

Pressed on whether withdrawing from the ECHR was a possibility, she told the BBC's World At One programme: "Well the Government has been clear in the media aftermath of the ruling issued by the (ECHR) that all options are on the table. So we're not ruling anything in and we're not ruling anything out.

"I think what is clear is it's a very frustrating situation that we find ourselves in... many people will have assumed that we took control back of our borders when we left the European Union," Ms Braverman added.

She said: "It is a decision that has caused a setback. That's clear to see. We are considering our response in relation to that decision but more broadly we are definitely open to assessing all options available as to what our relationship should be going forward with the (ECHR)."

Govt ‘disappointed’ in EU’s decision to launch legal action

14:23 , Daniel Keane

The Government is "disappointed" in the EU's decision to launch fresh legal action against the UK over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the latest proposals from Brussels for resolving the the issue would lead to more checks and controls, making the situation worse.

"We will consider these documents carefully and respond formally in due course, however we are disappointed the EU has taken this legal action today," the spokesman said.

"The EU's proposed approach, which doesn't differ from what they have said previously, would increase burdens on business and citizens and take us backwards from where we are currently.

"The infractions are related to the implementation of the protocol in our recently published Bill. It is difficult to see how scrapping grace periods and adding additional controls and checks would be the situation better."

Rail strikes ‘entirely pointless’, says Shapps

14:43 , Daniel Keane

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons that the rail strikes are "entirely pointless" and "counterproductive" as the pay freeze was "coming to an end".

Responding to Conservative former minister Stephen Hammond’s question on whether the railways needed to modernise, Mr Shapps said: “These discussions were under way when suddenly the union decided it would ballot its members, telling them, incorrectly, that it was to get them off a pay freeze.

“The pay freeze, which was across all of the public sector, nearly every part experienced a pay freeze, was in any case coming to an end.

“These are entirely pointless, counterproductive strikes. They should never have been called and the party opposite should recognise that fact.”

Around 150 more migrants brought ashore in Dover

14:59 , Daniel Keane

Around 150 more people have been brought ashore in Dover on Wednesday as low winds create ideal weather conditions for Channel crossing attempts.

So far, approximately 146 people including around 28 children have been rescued from small boats in the Channel and brought in to the Kent port.

Border Force ships Typhoon and Vigilant have brought rescued migrants into Dover, where they are then put on buses and sent to processing centres.

Shapps: Labour should put people above their party coffers over strikes

15:13 , Daniel Keane

Grant Shapps has urged Labour to "put people above their party coffers".

The Transport Secretary told the Commons: "We want to see the Labour Party, despite them being bankrolled by the unions, standing up to these union barons rather than bringing the railways to their knees.

"Their leader might be claiming that he is different, but you scratch the surface, it's the same old Labour today.

"The party opposite needs to join the Government and vote for this motion. They need to put people above their party coffers."

Shapps ‘has not held single meeting with unions’, says Labour shadow minister

15:29 , Daniel Keane

The Transport Secretary has not held a single meeting with both the unions and the industry for over two months to prevent the strikes going ahead, shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh has said.

She told the Commons: "No one in the country wants these strikes to go ahead. As we have heard, they will be a disaster for workers, passengers, the economy, and the rail industry. But the good news is that at this stage, they are not inevitable, and the dispute can still be resolved.

"The bad news is that it requires ministers on this side to step up and show leadership to get employers and the unions around the table and address the real issues - on pay and cuts to safety and maintenance staff - behind the disputes.

"Yet rather than demonstrating any responsibility, the only action this Government has taken so far is to send a petition to the official Opposition."

She went on: "Today, on the eve of the biggest rail disputes in a generation taking place on his watch, it is right to say, isn't it, that neither the Transport Secretary nor his ministers have held any talks with the unions and the industry to try and settle this dispute?"

Watch: How did the European Court of Human Rights stop the Rwanda flights?

15:55 , Daniel Keane

What is the European Court of Human Rights?

16:50 , Elly Blake

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is an international court set up in 1959 to rule on individual or state applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Its judgments are binding on the 46 Council of Europe member states that have ratified the Convention.

It is not a European Union institution and Brexit has not affected the UK’s relationship with the Strasbourg court or the ECHR.

The ECHR was drawn up by the Council of Europe – an organisation which Boris Johnson’s hero Winston Churchill was instrumental in founding.

Irish PM says EU legal action is ‘step up’

17:23 , Daniel Keane

Irish premier Micheal Martin has said that the EU's decision to launch a fresh legal action against the UK over plans to unilaterally scrap parts of Northern Ireland's Brexit deal is a step up in its response.

Mr Martin also called on the UK to get back to negotiations with the EU.

"It represents a step up in a response from the European Union," Mr Martin said.

"That said, the European Union is still available and wants to bring a resolution to issues arising from the operations of the protocol through substantive negotiations with the United Kingdom Government.

"The only logical and rationale way forward, is in my view, to commence these negotiations between the UK Government and the European Union and I would appeal to the UK Government to engage in such negotiations."

Just in: Govt motion condemning strike action passes

17:50 , Daniel Keane

The Government’s motion condemning the three-day strike action by rail unions and calling for them to continue discussions with the industry was approved by 293 votes to 15, majority 278.

Thirteen Labour MPs vote against Govt motion

18:07 , Daniel Keane

The division list showed 13 Labour MPs voted against the Government's motion condemning the three-day strike action by rail unions.

They include Richard Burgon (Leeds East), Ian Byrne (Liverpool West Derby), Barry Gardiner (Brent North), Ian Lavery (Wansbeck), Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford and Eccles), as well as former Chancellor John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington).

Govt ‘operating two tier system of human rights’, says peer

18:26 , Daniel Keane

Independent crossbench peer Lord Singh of Wimbledon accused the Government of operating a "two-tier system of human rights" when it comes to the application of its Rwanda policy.

He told the House of Lords: "We were given a near clear assurance that refugees from Ukraine would not be sent to Rwanda.

"Does this two-tier system of human rights agree with any sort of concept of equal rights for every human being?

"While I deeply sympathise with the plight of the Ukrainians, other people are also suffering and all people should have equal human rights."

Breaking: PM’s ethics chief Lord Geidt resigns

18:52 , Daniel Keane

Boris Johnson's adviser on ministerial interests has resigned.

Lord Geidt tendered his resignation to the Prime Minister, according to a brief statement on the Government's website on Wednesday evening.

"With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as independent adviser on ministers' interests," it read.

That’s all for this evening

21:29 , Elly Blake

That’s the end of our politics live blog coverage for this evening.

It’s been a turbulent day in Parliament as Home Secretary addressed MPs afterthe first migrant flight part of her flagship Rwanda policy was cancelled following intervention by European court.

We’ll continue to bring you all the latest developments tomorrow. Good night.

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