Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said “phenomenal” Rishi Sunak will find a way to save his deportation plan to Rwanda without abandoning the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Sacked Home Secretary Suella Braverman is among those on the right pushing to withdraw from the convention after the High Court rejected a plan to put asylum seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda.
But Mr Hunt insisted the government did not want to abandon the ECHR – and claimed Mr Sunak would “manage” to start flights and stop boats by next year.
“In Rishi Sunak we have the most persistent and determined Prime Minister I have ever worked with,” the chancellor told the BBC. Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.
“When it comes to solving terrifyingly complex problems, I've never worked with anyone as amazing as Rishi … when you interview me next year, we'll talk about how we achieved this plan.”
Asked whether the government could abandon the ECHR, Mr Hunt said: “We don't think at this stage that's necessary… We don't think it's going to get to that, at that stage – we don't want to do that .”
But the chancellor added that the government is determined to stop “foreign judges” deciding who comes to the UK. “In the end our bottom line is clear – elected representatives in parliament should make the decision.”
Mr Sunak's two-pronged strategy to deal with the Supreme Court ruling is to announce an emergency law that he says will allow parliament to “unequivocally” declare Rwanda a safe destination for asylum seekers.
The Prime Minister will also publish an upgraded agreement with the country, which is expected to attempt to address the court's concerns about “refoulement” – the possibility that refugees rejected by Rwanda could be sent back to the country they are fleeing.
But Ms Braverman and some Tory MPs want to go further – saying the UK's domestic and international obligations – the Human Rights Act and the ECHR – should be set aside using “notwithstanding clauses”.
Mr Sunak is said to be weighing some elements of the hardline plan proposed by Ms Braverman – including a move to make it clear that this designation of Rwanda as a safe country overrides the Human Rights Act.
A senior Tory MP, a moderate ally of Mr Sunack, said The independent It was “almost certainly necessary” to avoid further legal challenges over the Rwandan flights.
Some Tory MPs are pushing Mr Sunak to go even further, proposing a “derogation” from the ECHR for Rwanda, in an attempt to set aside some of the international convention's protections.
Questioned whether the government would be able to quickly introduce emergency legislation in Rwanda, Mr Hunt told Sky News on Sunday: “I think so – that's the plan… We'll do it legally and if we have to change the law we will do that.”
Asked about Braverman's angry exit from the government, Hunt told Sky News it was “normal to have these ups and downs” and said she had made a “constructive contribution” as home secretary.
Ms. Braverman has given an interview with Mail on Sunday criticizing Mr Sunak after he sacked her after she accused police of bias at pro-Palestinian protests and argued that people sleeping rough was a “lifestyle choice”.
He said the prime minister had lacked “moral leadership” on the Gaza marches over the past month – accusing him of making “lukewarm and cowardly statements”.
The former cabinet minister also said she “has a copy” of a pact she claims she signed with Mr Sunak in exchange for her support to become prime minister last October. But he said he hasn't released it – yet.
Ms Braverman described her dismissal as “a bit strange” and “confusing” – suggesting that Downing Street had endorsed her now infamous publication accusing the police of bias.
“It was a bit strange because on Wednesday we had an agreement with No 10 that I should write an article for The Times. We had drawn up a draft and exchanged versions with the team at No 10, so I find them very confusing,” Ms Braverman said.