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Majority of Tory rebels to fold and back Sunak’s Rwanda Bill

Majority of Tory rebels to fold and back Sunak’s Rwanda Bill

The “majority” of Conservative rebels are expected to back the Prime Minister’s Rwanda Bill after holding an 11th hour meeting in Parliament.

A Conservative rebel source said they expected the Safety of Rwanda Bill to pass “quite comfortably” during its third reading in the Commons, with only a “small number” of MPs voting down the Safety of Rwanda Bill at its third reading.

The announcement was made after more than 45 right-wing Tories, including former home secretary Suella Braverman and former immigration minister Robert Jenrick, met in a Commons committee room to discuss their approach to a series of crunch votes for Rishi Sunak on Wednesday evening.

Former business secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg confirmed to reporters after the meeting that he would be “voting with the Government” during the third reading of the Bill.

Speaking on behalf of the rebels after their meeting, a source said: “The majority of those people who spoke in the room have decided to back the Bill at third reading.

“A small number of colleagues will vote ‘No’ on a point of principle.

“But the overwhelming likelihood is that the Bill will pass probably quite comfortably this evening.”

The source, who rallied against Downing Street’s handling of negotiations with the rebels over amendments to Mr Sunak’s flagship immigration policy, said some MPs in the room considered the third reading a confidence matter and that they wanted to support the Government.

Others, such as Mr Jenrick, who tabled a number of amendments designed to tighten the legislation, have publicly stated that they are preparing to vote it down if changes are not made.

The 11th hour announcement by the rebel camp did not quell a rebellion in favour of an amendment designed to make the deportation legislation tougher, with 59 Tory MPs voting for a proposal designed to allow UK ministers to ignore emergency injunctions by European judges.

But the decision to ultimately fold on voting the Bill down at third reading will be welcome news to the Prime Minister, who had already faced a similar revolt by 60 of his MPs a day earlier, along with the resignation of two party deputy chairmen and a ministerial aide.

Senior red wall MPs Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith resigned from their party positions to vote in favour of amendments on Tuesday, while ministerial aide Jane Stevenson left her government job to back changes.

Jacob Rees-Mogg
Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg confirmed he would be supporting the Government’s Rwanda Bill (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Sunak, the Conservative Party leader, has made the Rwanda policy — first proposed in 2022 while Boris Johnson was in No 10 — central to his premiership, forming part of his pledge to stop small boats of migrants from coming to Britain via the English Channel.

He has been looking to tread a middle path with his Safety of Rwanda Bill, hoping to avoid a damaging rebellion on the right of the party while keeping liberal so-called One Nation Conservatives content that the legislation did not breach the UK’s international commitments on human rights.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary sent a message to Tory MPs ahead of Wednesday’s votes, urging them to “get behind this Bill so we can get this deterrent up and running as quickly as possible”.

Under the plan, migrants who cross the Channel on small boats could be sent to Rwanda rather than being allowed to try to seek asylum in the UK.

The legislation, along with a recently signed treaty with Kigali, is aimed at ensuring the scheme is legally watertight following a Supreme Court ruling against it last year.

The stalled policy comes with a £290 million bill but no asylum seekers arriving via unauthorised routes have been relocated as yet following a series of challenges in the courts.

Robert Jenrick
Robert Jenrick emerged as a rebel ringleader over the Rwanda Bill (Aaron Chown/PA)

Mrs Braverman, during the debate on proposed amendments, said the British people would not forgive Mr Sunak’s government unless the Rwanda legislation was toughened up to sideline Strasbourg judges.

A so-called Rule 39 injunction by the European Court of Human Rights grounded a deportation flight in 2022.

When defending his Bill, Mr Sunak has said there are circumstances under which he would be prepared to ignore such orders but hardline Tories wanted the pledge written into law.

Mr Jenrick, a rebel ringleader who resigned as a Home Office minister in protest at the Rwanda Bill, had led the call for changes aimed at ensuring the European emergency injunctions could be ignored by ministers in order to allow migrants to be sent on the one-way trip to Rwanda.

The Commons rejected the amendment by a majority of 471, with 65 MPs voting in favour of it.

Among its supporters were former prime minister Liz Truss, former cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke and Mr Anderson, as well as Mrs Braverman and Sir Jacob.

After rebels announced they were minded to back the Government’s legislation on Wednesday, Mr Jenrick, MP for Newark, withdrew a second amendment he had tabled which aimed to disapply elements of the Human Rights Act in relation to removals to the east African country.

Despite Tory rebels standing down, Mr Sunak’s Rwanda Bill is expected to face serious opposition in the House of Lords during its next stage.

Rebels have not ruled out proposing further amendments when the draft law is returned by peers to the Commons ahead of it entering the statute book.

Migrants continued to cross the English Channel on Wednesday, with groups of people pictured being brought ashore by Border Force in Dover, Kent.