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Express Op-Ed:


The legislation will not stop the ECHR from wading in again and it almost certainly violates our international obligations. Read the article here.


Only a day after its introduction, Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill is in trouble. For the right of his party, the Bill does not go far enough in removing the UK’s international obligations to protect refugee rights. For their opponents, it goes too far in this direction.


The immigration minister Robert Jenrick resigned, arguing the Bill would not stop the ‘merry-go-round of legal challenges which risk paralysing the scheme’.


The Attorney General, meanwhile, was not named as a backer of the Bill – generating the predictable suspicion that she is concerned about what the Bill would mean for our obligations under international law.

Even Rwanda – whose patchy human rights record was the reason the Supreme Court ruled it is unsafe in the first place – has warned the UK that it will not proceed with the Treaty if the UK does not abide by international law. And no Rwanda, no removals.


For the Bill to become law, it must pass through both Houses of Parliament.


Many had assumed it would be in the Lords where the Government faced its stiffest challenge.

Now the Commons too seems to be a potential sticking point. While the government hasn’t made it a confidence vote, losing it would certainly severely weaken his position.


The Prime Minister attempted what his Home Secretary called a ‘Goldilocks strategy’. But in trying to appeal to both sides of his party, he appears to have placated neither.

 

  

 

 

Rishi Sunak's Rwanda bill risks not pleasing anyone

ANALYSIS: The legislation will not stop the ECHR from wading in again and it almost certainly violates our international obligations, warns Dr Joelle Grogan

  13:04, Thu, Dec 7, 2023   | UPDATED: 13:14, Thu, Dec 7, 2023 

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Dr Joelle Grogan on Rishi Sunak (Image: Getty)

Only a day after its introduction, Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill is in trouble. For the right of his party, the Bill does not go far enough in removing the UK’s international obligations to protect refugee rights. For their opponents, it goes too far in this direction.

The immigration minister Robert Jenrick resigned, arguing the Bill would not stop the ‘merry-go-round of legal challenges which risk paralysing the scheme’.

The Attorney General, meanwhile, was not named as a backer of the Bill – generating the predictable suspicion that she is concerned about what the Bill would mean for our obligations under international law.

Even Rwanda – whose patchy human rights record was the reason the Supreme Court ruled it is unsafe in the first place – has warned the UK that it will not proceed with the Treaty if the UK does not abide by international law. And no Rwanda, no removals.

For the Bill to become law, it must pass through both Houses of Parliament.

Many had assumed it would be in the Lords where the Government faced its stiffest challenge.

Now the Commons too seems to be a potential sticking point. While the government hasn’t made it a confidence vote, losing it would certainly severely weaken his position.

The Prime Minister attempted what his Home Secretary called a ‘Goldilocks strategy’. But in trying to appeal to both sides of his party, he appears to have placated neither.


To be clear, the Bill does not withdraw the UK from international treaties or take the country out of the ECHR.


Rather, it states that on the specific issue of the safety of Rwanda - international treaties, domestic law, and key parts of the ECHR don’t apply.


But, in doing so, the Bill almost certainly breaches the UK’s international obligations. These aren’t a light that can be simply switched on and off. Parliament can only change domestic law unilaterally, which is what this Bill does.


But just because the Bill, should it become the law, will be legally valid in the UK does not make it so internationally.


The European Court of Human Rights could – and likely will – issue judgments and interim orders against the UK. And most probably swiftly too, as preventing people from protecting their rights is one of the most basic violations of the ECHR.


The UK could, as the Bill instructs, ignore the European Court of Human Rights and its interim orders. It would face significant consequences at international level: falling down the league table of countries with strong human rights records, undermining the whole ECHR system where other countries follow the UK’s example, damaging the UK’s reputation for committing to international treaties, and provoking potentially strong responses from the US and EU.


And there’s more. Other treaties we’ve signed up to, notably the Good Friday Agreement and the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, commit the UK to abiding by the European Convention in Northern Ireland and not lowering human rights standards.


On the surface, it’s hard to see how this Bill is compatible with these obligations either.


First published 7 December 2023.

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