Tory MPs urge ministers to curb European judges’ influence on UK migrant policy

The UK will “remain tied up in legal knots” unless reforms to deal with Channel crossings prevent European judges from interfering, according to Conservative MPs.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman faced calls from her backbench colleagues to ensure the Illegal Migration Bill seeks to curb the influence of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as interpreted by judges in Strasbourg, on domestic policy.

In 2022 the European Court of Human Rights granted an injunction, via rule 39, that effectively grounded a flight sending asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda – which renewed calls from some Tory MPs to pull out of the ECHR.

Illegal Migration Bill
Home Secretary Suella Braverman speaking in the House of Commons on the Illegal Migration Bill (House of Commons/PA)

Ms Braverman signalled the Bill will introduce measures to limit the impact of injunctions from the European court.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Conservative former minister Mark Francois said the “elephant in the room” is the ECHR.

He said: “Unless we can somehow face them down, we will remain tied up in legal knots in our own domestic courts and, ultimately, in Strasbourg.

“So, can the Home Secretary assure the House that when we see the Bill it will contain specific measures to do that, so that the Bill will achieve its purpose?”

Ms Braverman replied: “I refer him to disapplication of section three of the Human Rights Act and that sends a message to the judiciary about how Parliament intends for this Bill, this Act of Parliament, subsequently to be interpreted in the courts.”

Conservative Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash (Stone) said the Bill is “much in the right direction” before adding: “She needs also, I’m sure, to consider disapplication of parts of the Human Rights Act which would otherwise enable the judges to water down the Bill and the Government’s proper objectives.

Sir Bill Cash said the Illegal Migration Bill is “much in the right direction” (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“If we don’t deal with Strasbourg judgments and orders, these new proposals could not work … will she discuss these (proposed amendments) including aspects of the ECHR and also the refugee convention with us?”

Ms Braverman replied: “The immigration minister and myself will engage very fully with all MPs to hear their concerns and ideas about the Bill.”

Conservative former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who welcomed the statement, said: “Could (Ms Braverman) expand a little bit on the issue that stopped the migrants being taken to Rwanda last time, which was the intervention of the Court of Human Rights.

“I didn’t really hear anything in this statement to suggest that anything has changed on that matter.”

Ms Braverman replied: “He’s right to identify the difficulties that we had in affecting flights to Rwanda last year in the summer.

“As I mentioned, the Strasbourg court issued what’s called a rule 39 order pursuant to an opaque process at the last minute without UK representation or right of challenge.

“We will be introducing some detail in the Bill to address that scenario and inject some conditions upon which we will deliver the measures in rule 39.”

Simon Clarke, another Conservative former minister, said the UK must leave the ECHR if the new Bill aimed at tackling small boat crossings does not work.

Mr Clarke said: “We all hope this legislation will succeed, but will she promise that if it is frustrated by the European Convention on Human Rights that we will commit to leave it? Because leave it we must, if in the end this legislation is forestalled.”

Ms Braverman said last year’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which grounded a flight to Rwanda was “deeply regrettable”.

She added: “We are addressing that particular issue in this Bill to avoid that scenario playing out again. But in our view this Bill complies with our international obligations and we must take these measures now promptly.”

Conservative MP Sir Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire) welcomed the Bill and noted “We, British people, have rights as well”.

Ms Braverman replied: “(Sir Bill) is right, the British people’s famous sense of fair play and generosity has been tested beyond limits, and that’s why it’s necessary now to go further than we’ve gone before and make sure that we’ve got a robust scheme in place that actually stops the boats.”

Tory MP Nick Fletcher said people in his Don Valley constituency have “welcomed people from all around the world” but they “also realise now that we are full”.

Ms Braverman said “we are at unsustainable levels of people coming here illegally” and insisted “it is putting unsustainable pressure on our accommodation, on our public services, on our resources”.