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‘I will take them on’: Rishi Sunak vows to challenge those ‘standing in way’ of Rwanda plan


(Sky News) Rishi Sunak has vowed to “take on” anyone who is “standing in our way” regarding the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The prime minister struck a combative tone following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Wednesday, which found the policy – a key tenet of Mr Sunak’s pledge to stop small boat crossings in the Channel – was unlawful.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who opposes the scheme and has vowed to cancel it if he wins the next election, has urged Mr Sunak to “stop pursuing the expensive gimmicks” in the wake of the “unanimous” ruling by the UK highest court.

But Mr Sunak has vowed to press ahead, telling reporters this morning that his patience had “worn thin” and that “people just want the problem fixed”.

“We can pass these laws in parliament that will give us the powers and the tools we need,” he said.

“Then we can get the flights off and whether it’s the House of Lords or the Labour Party standing in our way I will take them on because I want to get this thing done and I want to stop the boats.”

Mr Sunak was speaking just a day after former home secretary Suella Braverman intervened with her own five-point plan to get flights off to Rwanda by the next election – which is likely to be held in the spring or autumn of next year.

The Rwanda policy would see anyone arriving in the UK by unauthorised means, such as small boat, deported to the African country to claim asylum there and not the UK.

But in its landmark ruling on Wednesday, the Supreme Court found the scheme was unlawful on the grounds that those sent to Rwanda would be at “real risk” of being sent back to their country of origin regardless of whether their asylum claim was justified or not – something that would breach international human rights laws.

In the aftermath of the ruling, Mr Sunak doubled down on the policy, telling MPs he was prepared to “change laws and revisit… international relationships” if they were “frustrating” his plans.

The government has said it would do this by turning its current deal with Rwanda into a fully fledged international treaty, which Mr Sunak argued would “address the challenges” of the court ruling – including making it legally binding for the country not to return asylum seekers home.

The second part would see the government introduce emergency legislation in the Commons which Mr Sunak said would “enable parliament to confirm that with our new treaty, Rwanda is safe” and see off further legal challenges.

However, he also acknowledged that even if domestic laws are changed, the government could still face legal challenges from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and vowed: “I will not allow a foreign court to block these flights.”

The stalemate over Rwanda has bolstered calls from some in the Tory party for the UK to withdraw from the ECHR altogether after an injunction last June stopped the first scheduled flights from taking off.

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, Ms Braverman called for changes to her own Illegal Migration Act to revive the Rwanda deportation scheme, admitting there was “no chance of stopping the boats within the current legal framework”.

While she welcomed Mr Sunak’s plan to introduce emergency legislation, she argued that simply “amending our agreement with Rwanda and converting it into a treaty… will not solve the fundamental issue”.

She said that any legislation “must therefore circumvent the lengthy process of further domestic litigation” by excluding “all avenues of legal challenge”.

“The entirety of the Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights, and other relevant international obligations, or legislation, including the Refugee Convention, must be disapplied,” she added.

Piling further pressure on the prime minister, she said any new bill should also be introduced by Christmas recess and that parliament should be recalled to sit and debate it over the holiday period to allow deportation flights to take off before the next election- something Downing Street has not ruled out.

Asked about the prospect of MPs sitting over the Christmas recess, a spokeswoman for Mr Sunak said: “I think we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we can get this in place and get flights off the ground.

“I wouldn’t speculate on parliamentary process but I cannot impress [enough] the importance that the prime minister places on this necessary legislation to deliver for the public on the important priority of stopping the boats.”


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