Robert Jenrick delivered blow-after-blow to Rishi Sunak’s flagship Rwanda plan this morning, warning that the Bill simply “won’t work”.
In his first television interview since sensationally quitting the Government earlier this week, Mr Jenrick refused to deny that the Prime Minister is intentionally misleading voters about how successful the new illegal migrant plan will be.
The former immigration minister also hit back at Mr Sunak, who said in a letter responding to Mr Jenrick’s resignation that he “fundamentally misunderstood” the new Bill.
Mr Jenrick diplomatically said “I think I do understand the issue”, pointing out that the PM himself had praised his former minister’s expertise on the subject.
He warned that the disagreement between him and Mr Sunak is “absolutely totemic”, and warned the Bill will not work as individual migrant appeals will still be allowed.
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“I think it will lead to a range of legal claims that will bog down our scheme and will not create the deterrent that he and I set out to achieve.
“The test for this is not ‘can you get one or two symbolic flights off before the next election with a handful of illegal migrants on them’, it’s ‘can you create a strong deterrent that is sustainable and stops the boats, and protects the borders of this country for years to come’.
“That is what I want to achieve and I’m afraid this Bill is not it.”
He also slammed the PM after reports the Government’s own lawyers said the legislation has a slim chance of working.
Mr Jenrick said it’s “very clear to all those people who really understand how this system operates that this Bill will not succeed”.
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The ERG caucus of right-wing Tory MPs, whose lawyers agree with Mr Jenrick that the Bill is not watertight enough, are also focusing on Clause 4 of the Bill and are demanding amendments.
Mr Jenrick explained: “What will happen is that absolutely everyone who comes across on a small boat will put in a claim that Rwanda might be generally safe but for individual reasons it’s not safe for them”.
He blasted the PM for making a deliberate “political choice” to bring forward a Bill “that doesn’t do the job”.
“I think that at this moment when you’ve got a small boats crisis where 114,000 people have crossed the Channel on dangerous, unnecessary and illegal small boats, that we cannot take that risk.
“The stakes are simply too high and the public will not forgive us if we get this wrong again.”
While Rishi Sunak refused to countenance demands for the UK to breach ECHR laws to ensure migrants can be sent to Rwanda, the former immigration minister argued his proposals are entirely compatible with the UK’s international obligations.
“There are respectable legal arguments for doing all the things I am proposing while respecting our international obligations.”
However he said even if that were not the case, he would “always put the vital national interests of this country and the views and concerns of the British public above contested notions of international law”.
“We’re sent to parliament to represent the general public, we’re not sent to parliament to be concerned about our reputation on the gilded international circuit.”
Mr Jenrick joined Suella Braverman in saying he would support leaving the ECHR entirely, arguing there is a strong case for Britain to quit the treaty, “but that is a debate for another day”.
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