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Sunak faces Tory rebellion if he opts for hardline Rwanda plan to ignore ECHR

Tory moderates warn PM if could face defeat in Commons and Lords if he tries to ignore international law to save controversial deal

Rishi Sunak has been warned by moderate Conservatives that hardline moves to ignore international law to save the Rwanda deportation deal will trigger rebellions from MPs and peers.

i understands there are also concerns in Whitehall that the Prime Minister could be defeated in Parliament if he attempts to ignore international treaties to salvage the flagship plan to help him “stop the boats” of asylum seekers crossing the Channel.

Mr Sunak has promised to do “whatever it takes” to get the scheme off the ground amid suggestions that the Cabinet is split over how tough he should get to override judges after the plan was ruled unlawful last week by the Supreme Court.

He has promised a new treaty with Rwanda alongside emergency legislation to end the legal “merry-go-round” over the plans and is being encouraged by the Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick to use the new laws to disapply both the UK’s Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for asylum cases.

But he reportedly faces opposition from new Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, Home Secretary James Cleverly, Attorney General Victoria Prentis and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk.

A source close to Lord Cameron denied he was against a hardline plan, highlighting that he said last week ministers must do “whatever is needed” to end Channel crossings.

Mr Chalk is, meanwhile, waiting to study the detail of any proposals before making up his mind, i understands.

Downing Street also denied senior ministers were split, insisting the Prime Minister was “working very closely with members of Cabinet on the details” of the laws.

The hardline approach advocated by Mr Jenrick is understood to carry less support in the Cabinet since Mr Sunak sacked Suella Braverman as home secretary.

But the Prime Minister is under heavy pressure from Tory right-wingers to ensure legal challenges are stopped and a deportation flight takes off for Rwanda ahead of the next election, widely expected by the end of next year.

In a sign of the dilemma facing Mr Sunak, senior Tory moderates however warned that attempting to ignore international law could lead to major rebellions and even defeat for Mr Sunak in the Commons and Lords.

Stephen Hammond, a senior MP on the 106-strong One Nation Tory caucus, told i: “Leaving the ECHR is a red line for most One Nation Conservatives.

“The ECHR is fundamental to the Conservatives’ identity, protecting individual rights.

“Although the PM is right to tackle the boat crossings, we shouldn’t do this in a way that compromises our values.”

Tory former immigration minister Lord Kirkhope meanwhile claimed Mr Chalk and Ms Prentis would oppose disapplying the ECHR.

“Even in the Commons there would be nervousness,” Lord Kirkhope told i.

“It would be extremely difficult to move that through Parliament with the law officers [sic – Mr Chalk and Ms Prentis] on board.

“I’d wager money that he (Mr Sunak) would be more sensible than that.

“He’s going to have to discipline the Braverman disciples, among them the Immigration Minister (Mr Jenrick).”

The peer warned that disapplying parts of the ECHR would create questions around the Good Friday Agreement for peace in Northern Ireland, adding that “the Americans would never tolerate it” and that the UK “would have to leave the Council of Europe”.

“You can’t just disapply bits and bobs, you are either in it or you are out of it,” the former MP and MEP said.

On Monday, Mr Sunak promised to do “what is necessary” to get the Rwanda scheme “up and running”.

Asked about reports of Cabinet splits after a speech in London, Mr Sunak said: “We have been working on a new treaty with Rwanda that will address all the concerns that were raised by the Supreme Court, and we will combine that with new emergency legislation that will make it crystal clear and give Parliament the opportunity to confirm – that Rwanda for all of these purposes is a safe place to implement our scheme.

“And I won’t let a foreign court stop us from getting flights off to Rwanda.”

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