UK : British Prime Minister promised deportation flights under his flagship Rwanda plan in the Spring, prompting his government colleagues to quickly try to manage expectations and push back the date, first to before 2024, and now perhaps not at all.
The UK government can not guarantee any Rwanda deportation flights will take off before the next UK general election, which the governing Conservatives are — polling claims — likely to lose, suggesting the policy is unlikely to ever happen.
The admission from the UK’s Chancellor (finance minister) is a major rowing back of remarks made by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a press conference on Wednesday evening as he attempted to claw back control of the situation after the Supreme Court ruled the Rwanda plan illegal for now.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt spoke of the Rwanda plan Thursday night in conversation with Sky News and said that while he and his colleagues were “hopeful” there could be flights next year, nevertheless “We can’t guarantee that”,
The Times reports.The United Kingdom is due a general election to choose the next government next year, and at the very latest by early January 2025.
Meanwhile, the former government minister responsible for the policy who was sacked on Monday has spoken out to warn the policy can’t work because the government isn’t bold enough to take the steps necessary to actually embark on a programme of deportations.
On Wednesday Prime Minister Sunak had told journalists in an emergency speech: “we’ll take all the necessary steps to ensure we can remove any further blockages to us getting this policy executed, and getting planes leaving as planned in the Spring next year.” Clearly, the remarks were privately interpreted in government as the PM having set a trap for himself while ad-libbing an answer to a journalist’s question.
Hunt’s row-back takes the revised date for deportation flights leaving the UK for Rwanda even further in the future than the first attempt to clarify the Prime Minister’s promise, after new Home Secretary (interior minister) James Cleverly cautioned on Thursday morning that it was wrong to “guesstimate” when the deportations might actually happen.
Nevertheless, the Sunak ally said, the government was “absolutely determined” to see them happen before that next general election.
The Rwanda plan is a now longstanding but unrealised policy by the UK Conservative government to manage high levels of illegal boat migration to the country by discouraging those yet to come, and expatriating those who already have.
By paying the Rwandan government to look after arrivals in perpetuity, giving them new lives in the East African nation, the government believes it will put off migrants whose greatest aim was not merely to find a new life, but specifically to live in the United Kingdom, which has a flourishing black market for illegal labour and a generous welfare system.
The plan has not yet deported a single inadmissible migrant since the first flight was subject to a now near-two-year round of legal challenges.
The issue has made its way to the UK Supreme Court, which confirmed the policy was legal in principle but presently inadmissible as it found there were not enough safeguards to prevent Rwanda simply deporting the migrants again in the future.
PM Sunak has said a new treaty legally obliging Rwanda to not do this, and emergency legislation will be enough to overcome this point of law and unlock the policy.
Suella Braverman, the now former government minister who spent a year trying to deliver on the promise of the plan was sacked on Monday — widely thought to be because she was too right-wing for centre-right globalist Sunak — has already hit out at her old boss for holding her back in post and not delivering on private promises made to give her a free hand to deliver policy.
Now she has delivered further remarks, writing about the specific problems with the Rwanda policy preventing it from ever actually being enacted.
“There is no longer any chance of stopping the boats within the current legal framework”, Braverman wrote, saying new legislation must use “notwithstanding” clauses to disapply international human rights laws used to attack border control legislation in courts such as the European Court of Human Rights.
Laying down a challenge to Sunak, Braverman wrote: “the Prime Minister must now give Parliamentarians a clear choice: to either properly control illegal migration, or explain to the British people why they are powerless under international law and must simply accept ever greater numbers of illegal arrivals on these shores.”
BY OLIVER JJ LANE
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