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Richard Tice: Rwanda plan not a deterrent and UK must leave ECHR

Richard Tice has seen Reform UK jump to 10 points in the opinion polls
Richard Tice has seen Reform UK jump to 10 points in the opinion polls - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Europe

Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plan is never going to work and the UK should leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), Richard Tice, the Reform UK leader, has said.

Speaking in the wake of the Government’s five defeats in the Lords over the scheme, Mr Tice said the continued small boat crossings of the Channel in the past week showed that it was not acting as a deterrent.

“I knew it would never be a deterrent. Our plan is the only plan that will work,” said the Reform leader, who has seen his party jump to 10 points in the opinion polls as the Conservatives have slumped to 20 per cent.

“You leave the ECHR and you pick the boats up, [get] people out of the boats, and you safely take them back to Dunkirk and Calais, which we are legally entitled to do under two international maritime treaties, and nobody has proven me wrong because I am right.

“But none of these gutless, feeble people in the House of Commons – whether it is Starmer, Sunak, Cleverly, any of them – have got the guts to do it. That is the only way this will stop.”

Mr Tice’s remarks follow a series of damaging defeats in the Lords, which threaten to delay Mr Sunak’s pledge to get Rwanda flights taking off.

Peers voted through five amendments, which declared that deportation flights should not be allowed until there was independently verified evidence that Rwanda was safe and that the legislation should be tightened to ensure the migration pact is compatible with international law.

A succession of senior Tories gave speeches in the upper chamber, warning the Government that the deal will face further legal challenges.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, raised the rise of the Nazis as he warned ministers against the perils of breaking with human rights rules.

However, in an interview with The Telegraph, James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, warned that delaying the legislation would only benefit the people-smugglers.

He said opponents in the Lords and Labour were trying to take away one of the tools that would deter migrants from making life-threatening journeys and break the business model of the smuggling gangs without coming up with an alternative that would work.

Mr Tice suggested the defeats played into the hands of the Government, saying: “It actually suits the Prime Minister. So he can now blame the Lords for stopping the Rwanda Bill. We all know that it was never going to make any difference whatsoever, and the proof is in the pudding.

“These arrivals this week, last week, all this year… clearly shows it is not a deterrent. It is ridiculous.”

The Safety of Rwanda Bill, designed to clear the path for deportation flights, has another day of votes on amendments by the Lords on Wednesday before it returns to the Commons on March 18, when the Government is expected to seek to reverse them.

This will spark a “ping-pong” battle with the Lords, which is expected to result in victory for the Government as Labour has said it will not ultimately block the legislation.

Ministers have said they aim to get the flights going “as quickly as possible” after that, although they anticipate further legal challenges by individual migrants earmarked for deportation to Rwanda.