UK’s Rwanda bill not tough enough, conservative MPs say

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s attempt to get his flagship immigration policy of deporting asylum seekers from the United Kingdom to Rwanda back on track has suffered another blow as MPs in his party said a planned emergency law was not tough enough.

Last month, the UK Supreme Court declared the government’s scheme to deport thousands of migrants to Rwanda unlawful, saying the east African country could not be considered a safe third country.

In response, Sunak agreed a new treaty with Rwanda and has brought forward emergency legislation designed to override domestic and international human rights law which would prevent deportations.

Parliament will hold a first vote on the legislation on Tuesday.

After examining the proposed new law, MPs in Sunak’s Conservative Party said it did not go far enough and only provided a “partial and incomplete solution” to the problem of deportations being stopped by legal challenges.

“Resolving, comprehensively, the issues raised by this analysis would require very significant amendments… and the final Bill would look very different,” according to a legal opinion of a “Star Chamber” committee of senior Conservative MPs.

For Sunak, struggling to revive a weak UK economy and heavily trailing the main opposition party in opinion polls, the Rwanda policy has become a defining issue for his government despite lawyers saying at every stage that it would not work.

Defeat in Tuesday’s vote would be a hammer blow for the scheme and severely weaken his premiership, with the Conservatives already trailing the opposition Labour party by about 20 points in opinion polls.

“We remain confident in our approach, it is both… the right and only approach and we are confident that parliamentarians will rightly scrutinise it but agree with our position,” Sunak’s representative had earlier told reporters.

“We continue to listen carefully to MPs, we are confident this is the toughest version of legislation that will enable us to stop the boats.”

But critics within his party painted a bleak picture of the chances of the legislation’s success, although they did not immediately say if they would vote down the bill .

Danny Kruger, from the New Conservatives grouping in Sunak’s party, said “the bill doesn’t yet work and we’re hopeful that the government will come forward with improvements”.

Another Conservative MP, Simon Clarke, said the “Star Chamber’s advice was “very concerning” and there were “clear and specific challenges” to the government.

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