Rishi Sunak to be grilled by MPs on small boats and Brexit

Rishi Sunak will be questioned on immigration and deal with EU  (Getty/iStock/EPA)
Rishi Sunak will be questioned on immigration and deal with EU (Getty/iStock/EPA)

Rishi Sunak will be grilled by a committee of senior MPs on the juddering economy, his planned crackdown on small boats and post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.

The prime minister faces a 90-minute cross-examination by the Commons liaison committee on Tuesday afternoon, the only group which gets to question the PM.

Caroline Nokes – the senior Tory MP who has likened Mr Sunak’s “horrendous” asylum plans to Donald Trump’s “caging of children” – will quiz him on small boats.

Veteran hardline Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash will question him on the Windsor pact recently signed with the EU despite ongoing opposition from the DUP and rebellion by a small group of senior Tories.

And questions on the economy, following chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Budget, will come from Labour’s Treasury select committee chairwoman Harriet Baldwin, among others.

It is chaired by senior Tory Sir Bernard Jenkin, who proved a tough inquisitor for Boris Johnson at last week’s Partygate inquiry hearing.

The Sunak grilling comes as he comes under pressure from different wings of the Tory party to change his Illegal Migration Bill, aimed at the speedy deportation of migrants coming across the English Channel.

A group of right-wing Tory MPs had signalled that it does not go far enough – calling for ministers to direct British judges to ignore any injunctions by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to block deportations.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick defused a rebellion by up to 60 MPs by promising he would “engage closely” with their concerns – saying he wanted the bill to “survive the kind of egregious and vexatious legal challenges that we have seen in the past”.

One senior Tory MP on the right told The Independent that the group was “very optimistic” that home secretary Suella Braverman soon be tightened to allow British judges to ignore the Strasbourg injunctions.

Suella Braverman expected to tighten bill (AP)
Suella Braverman expected to tighten bill (AP)

Others on the liberal wing want to see Mr Sunak commit to establishing “safe and legal” routes by which asylum seekers can come to Britain.

Senior Tory MP Tim Loughton had proposed amendment seeking to force the government to set out new routes to asylum immediately – but it was also paused after assurances by the the immigration minister.

Mr Jenrick said the government would “accelerate the process of launching the local authority consultation on safe and legal routes at the same time as commencement of the Bill – I hope that satisfies him”.

MPs voted to reject amendments that would have allowed unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to be allowed in for the purposes of family reunion, and forced the government to create returns deals with EU states.

But MPs could table new amendments when the bill returns for the report stage – with MPs from across the House keen to create stronger protections against child detention.

Ms Nokes is likely to give Mr Sunak a hard time at his move to allow the detention of children as part of the crackdown – reversing a ban introduced by the David Cameron-led coalition government a decade ago.

While Mr Sunak successfully pushed the key part of his post-Brexit compromise deal on the protocol with the EU, Mr Cash was one of the 29 Tories who voted against the Stormont brake.