Sunak is trying to rally lawmakers ahead of the British parliamentary vote on the Rwanda plan

  • Parliament is scheduled to vote around 1900 GMT
  • Sunak’s party split over emergency legislation
  • The rebels want legal challenges to the Rwanda plan banned

LONDON, Dec 12 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sought on Tuesday to rally support from his divided lawmakers before facing a crucial parliamentary vote on his key immigration policy of sending asylum seekers who arrive in Britain illegally to Rwanda.

Sunak is seeking to revive his plan after the UK Supreme Court ruled last month that it would violate British and international law by sending those arriving in small boats on the south coast of England to Rwanda because it is an unsafe place.

He has since agreed to a new treaty with Rwanda and introduced emergency legislation to override domestic and international human rights law that would halt deportations.

But the move has deeply divided the Conservative Party, alienating moderates, who worry Britain is violating its human rights obligations, and those on the right wing who claim it goes no further. His defeat in Tuesday’s elections could jeopardize his premiership.

“The test of this policy is not ‘Is this the strongest bill we have put forward?’ It is not ‘Is this a good compromise?’ It is ‘Will it work?’” Robert Jenrick, who resigned as immigration secretary last week, told Parliament: It’s all that matters to the public.”

Sunak’s Conservative Party has been in power for 13 years and trails the opposition Labor Party by about 20 points, with elections expected to be held next year. Sunak’s Conservative Party has split along multiple lines and has lost much of its discipline.

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Right-wing lawmakers, who have not announced whether they will abstain or vote against the bill, want to prevent asylum seekers from having any legal means to appeal against deportation, after the European Court of Human Rights approved an injunction blocking the first Rwandan flight. last year.

Opening parliamentary debate on the bill, Home Secretary James Cleverly said the legislation “pushes to the edge of the envelope” in terms of international law and could go no further.

He added, “Parliament and the British people want to put an end to illegal immigration and support the Rwanda plan.”

Governments around the world are also closely watching the UK’s plan to see if it will succeed as they face rising levels of immigration. French lawmakers rejected an immigration bill last night, in a blow to President Emmanuel Macron.

Decisive vote

The British Parliament is scheduled to hold its first vote on the emergency law on Tuesday evening, and it will only take about 30 Conservative MPs to vote with the opposition parties for the government to lose.

Defeat would be a major embarrassment for Sunak, as no government has lost a vote at this early stage of the parliamentary process since 1986. This would severely weaken his authority and raise serious questions about his leadership, given that he has bet so much on this policy. .

Even if it passes, Sunak will likely face attempts to tighten it through amendments at later stages, as well as opposition in the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber.

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This is what prompted the government to summon the British Climate Minister to London from the COP28 summit in Dubai to cast his vote in Parliament.

Sunak also hosted some right-wing Conservative lawmakers for breakfast on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to convince them to support the bill, after centrist lawmakers said they would support it as long as the law is not tightened further.

Those who met Sunak said the Prime Minister hinted that the bill could be amended at a later stage.

Sunak is Britain’s fifth Conservative prime minister in seven years after voting to leave the European Union, leading to repeated bouts of instability.

The battle has echoes of the parliamentary confrontations over Britain’s exit from the European Union from 2017 to 2019, when Prime Minister Theresa May suffered repeated defeats following rebellions by a large number of Conservative politicians, which ultimately led to her exit.

The Conservatives have repeatedly failed to meet immigration reduction targets, which rose even after Brexit stripped EU citizens of their right to freedom of movement, with net legal immigration reaching 745,000 people last year.

About 29,000 asylum seekers have arrived this year by boat – down about a third compared to last year – but the sight of small inflatable boats crossing the Channel remains a highly visible symbol of the government’s failure to control Britain’s borders – a key Brexit promise. Activists.

Hours before the vote, a refugee charity reported that an asylum seeker had died on a boat off the southern coast housing migrants awaiting a decision on their claims.

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Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, promised that his party would abolish this policy if it came to power.

“It will happen tonight, I have no doubt about it, with a lot of shouting and screaming, but it will happen in the end,” he said, but added that Sunak should call an election if he loses.

Britain has already paid 240 million pounds ($300 million) to Rwanda although no one has been sent there yet. Even if the program begins, Rwanda will only have the capacity to settle hundreds of migrants from Britain at a time.

($1 = 0.7971 pounds)

Writing by Kate Holton, Andrew MacAskill and Michael Holden, additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan. Edited by Rosalba O’Brien, Christina Fincher, Peter Graff, and Sharon Singleton

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Sarah reports on breaking news in the UK, with a focus on British businesses. She has been part of the UK desk for 12 years and covers everything from airlines to energy to the royal family, politics and sport. She is an avid open water swimmer.

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