Legal Advisor Warns Sunak: Challenges in Rwanda Flights Bill
Legal Advisor Warns Sunak: C...
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Legal Advisor Warns Sunak: Challenges in Rwanda Flights Bill

30 December 2023
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2 min.
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Legal Advisor Warns Sunak: Challenges in Rwanda Flights Bill

Showdown in Parliament

Constitutional expert David Pannick has raised warnings to the Rishi Sunak government about potential challenges to deportation flights to Rwanda. Specifically, he expressed concerns about appeal claims within the legislation he helped shape.

Concerns Raised by Lord Pannick

According to a source familiar with the discussions, Lord Pannick acknowledged that not addressing individual claims could severely impede the success of the deportation scheme. Government lawyers have cautioned that there is, at best, a 50% chance of initiating the first Rwanda flights before the general election.

Clause IV Controversy

Right-wing Tory MPs are expressing dissatisfaction with Clause IV in the bill, permitting asylum seekers to challenge deportations. Some are advocating for "notwithstanding clauses" to bypass the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). While the bill allows ministers to bypass the Human Rights Act, it stops short of overriding the ECHR. Tory MPs, including the European Research Group (ERG), may oppose the bill without amendments in the new year.

Internal Disagreements

Attorney General Victoria Prentis has reportedly opposed notwithstanding clauses to further disapply human rights law. Former immigration minister Robert Jenrick, who resigned over the perceived weakness of the bill, urged the Home Office to "take back control." Tory moderates in the "One Nation" group are considering amendments to soften the bill's impact.

Moderate Sir Robert Buckland is exploring potential tweaks to ensure compliance with human rights law. However, Damian Green, the One Nation wing's chairman, expressed hope that the third reading would proceed smoothly as long as Sunak adheres to the current, narrow approach.

Challenges and Opposition

Despite winning a first reading vote before Christmas, Sunak faces challenges from both right-wing Tories and One Nation moderates. Only a rebellion of 28 Tory MPs at the crucial third reading stage could undermine his majority.

New legislation permits migrants facing deportation to appeal if they present "compelling" evidence of imminent harm in Rwanda. Home Office predicts a high failure rate (99.5%) for asylum seekers' legal challenges. Critics, especially from the Tory party, consider the assessment outdated, questioning Sunak's assertion that legal challenges will be rare.

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