Suella Braverman has signalled that she is prepared to ignore European judges to start deportation flights to Rwanda, as she readies to face down her critics this week.
The Home Secretary said proposed new powers for ministers to disregard temporary injunctions by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) were “crucial” to delivering Rishi Sunak’s pledge to stop migrant boats from crossing the Channel.
A so-called Rule 39 order – dubbed “pyjama injunctions” by Tory MPs – was used by a single ECHR judge late at night to block the first deportation flight to Rwanda at the eleventh hour last June.
Mrs Braverman’s remarks come ahead of a showdown in the Commons this week as the Illegal Migration Bill returns for its final report stage, with Tory rebels expected to pressure her to make concessions on modern slavery laws. She has also pledged to establish “safe and legal routes” for refugees within six months, in a concession to Tory rebels.
In an article for the Telegraph, the Home Secretary writes: “Last year we saw the European Court in Strasbourg issue Rule 39 interim measures, which blocked a removal flight to Rwanda.
“Our Bill will now give ministers broad discretion whether to comply with interim measures in individual cases. This is a crucial power.”
The controversial powers were only introduced last week by the Government as an amendment to its Illegal Migration Bill after about 60 Eurosceptic Tory MPs demanded a tougher approach against the ECHR.
Mrs Braverman, who is known to have been sympathetic to the rebels, has now backed the new power which makes it easier for ministers to counter future attempts by Strasbourg judges to block flights. She also insists the Government’s measures are “robust to inevitable legal challenge” as ministers brace for an onslaught over the legality of the Bill in the House of Lords and the ECHR.
It comes as the Government begins its legal defence of the Rwanda policy in the Court of Appeal on Monday after it was ruled lawful in the High Court.
If successful, it could pave the way for the first flights later this year or early next year if ministers also have the power to ignore Rule 39 orders.
The Bill gives the Home Secretary powers to detain any migrant entering the UK illegally and swiftly remove them to their own country or a third safe state such as Rwanda, with virtually no recourse to legal action on human rights or other grounds until after they have left.
If there is no third safe country such as Rwanda to which to deport the migrants, MPs fear the policy will struggle to act as a deterrent to migrants making the dangerous journey across the Channel in small boats.
Ministers had originally proposed to try to negotiate reforms of the injunctions with Strasbourg to give Britain a bigger say before they were applied, and counter their arbitrary nature.
Mrs Braverman has said these talks would continue in parallel to the introduction of the new powers, writing: “At the same time, we are continuing to engage in constructive dialogue with Strasbourg on possible reforms to their process around interim measures.”
The amendment, laid in Parliament late on Friday, decrees that a Rule 39 injunction will “not affect the duty” of the Home Secretary to remove illegal migrants from the UK.
In deciding whether to ignore the injunctions, the Home Secretary would, however, take into account whether the Government was given a chance to make representations, whether these were considered, the form of the injunctions and their likely duration.
In her article, Mrs Braverman also backs amendments requiring ministers to produce a report on “safe and legal” routes for refugees within six months of the Bill becoming law, a concession aimed at securing the support of moderate Conservative MPs.
Tory MPs backing the amendment have insisted the number allowed into the UK through such routes must be additional to schemes already in place for people fleeing Ukraine, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Syria.
They will be decided in consultation with local councils, with a cap agreed annually in a vote by Parliament.
Sir Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, said he would decide how to vote once he had assurances over the scheme.
On Saturday, he told GB News: “We need to know what those safe and legal routes the Government wants to adopt are going to be, what they look like, how that’s going to be arranged.”
Mrs Braverman is facing a backlash over moves to curb migrants’ use of modern slavery claims to fight deportation, with an amendment by Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May, both former Tory leaders, seeking to block the removal of victims of trafficking in the UK. It is thought unlikely that the pair will force it to a vote, and that they are instead looking for the Government to signal concessions.
In an attack on Labour’s opposition to the Bill, Mrs Braverman accuses it of putting the rights of illegal migrants above those of hard-working Britons, as she urges the Opposition to back the plans.
She writes: “The Labour Party should also get behind the Bill – all they’ve done so far is seek to water it down and block our measures. They have no plan to stop the boats because they have no desire to.
“This goes against the express wish of the British people.”