Rishi Sunak and Tory rebels reach ‘ceasefire’ over migrants Bill

Rishi Sunak - Leon Neal/Reuters
Rishi Sunak - Leon Neal/Reuters

Rishi Sunak has struck a “temporary ceasefire” with Tory rebels after agreeing to their demands to revisit his small boats plan.

The Prime Minister agreed to look at tougher measures to prevent the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) from blocking deportations to Rwanda.

His climbdown came with more than 60 Conservative MPs threatening to vote against the Government in the Commons on Monday night. They were set to back four backbench amendments to stop the return of illegal migrants from becoming “entangled in human rights law”.

Downing Street will now have three weeks, until after Parliament’s Easter recess, to come up with a new blueprint to assuage the rebels.

Number 10 stuck to its insistence that it would not make any changes to the the Illegal Migration Bill that would break Britain’s commitments under the ECHR.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick sought to see off a rebellion by assuring Tory MPs he would speak to them about their worries that human rights law could interfere with the Bill.

Mr Jenrick said: "I am certainly keen to give them an undertaking to engage with them and other colleagues who are interested in these points ahead of report stage of the Bill.

"We are united in our determination that this Bill will be a robust Bill, that it will be able to survive the kind of egregious and vexatious legal challenges that we have seen in the past, and that it will enable us to do the job and to remove illegal immigrants to safe third countries like Rwanda."

As a result of the agreement, Tory rebel leaders including Danny Kruger, Simon Clarke and Sir Bill Cash agreed not to force a vote on their proposals.

One proposal would oblige the Government to ignore interim judgments, known as Rule 39 judgments, issued by the ECHR to block deportations.

Another would mean ministers could not be legally forced to bring back migrants who won an appeal after being sent to Rwanda, and a third states that the period within which asylum seekers can fight a removal order would be shortened to seven days to thwart delaying tactics.

Finally, there would be restrictions on how judicial reviews could be used in the UK courts to try and stop illegal arrivals from being deported.

Rebel MPs praised Mr Sunak for listening to their concerns and pledged to hold him to acting on them, with one source describing it as a “temporary ceasefire”.

“Ultimately we know that our best and probably only chance to avoid this legislation from being entangled in human rights law is for this place to be absolutely clear and unambiguous about our intentions,” Mr Clarke told the Commons.

Mr Kruger said the revised Bill must end the use of “pyjama injunctions in the middle of the night” by the ECHR, adding: “We should not be dictated to when it comes to the control of our borders.

“I don’t think we can rely on assurances that the Government may have received from Strasbourg that judges there will respect this law in a way that they didn’t respect the last one. We need to go further and not just permit removals, not just mandate removals, but we must also actively block the frustration of the removals policy.”

A rebel source added: “The PM is the one who promised to stop the boats by Christmas. All these measures will take at least six months to take effect.”

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Sunak “recognises there are strong views on all sides of this” after the Prime Minister was heckled as he headed to a Q&A in Chelmsford, Essex.

He said Mr Sunak had “made clear this Bill will comply with international law and stop the boats” while doing “what is necessary to fix the problem with illegal migration”.