Mon, 26 February 2024
The Daily Ittefaq

UK: Rishi Sunak faces Rwanda bill vote amid party revolts

Update : 17 Jan 2024, 20:49

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his government's plans to send people seeking asylum in the United Kingdom to Rwanda for consideration to stay there instead could face defeat in parliament on Wednesday. 

Sunak faces a potential rebellion from both the moderate and right flanks of his Conservative Party in a parliamentary vote on a policy he and the party have emphasized in recent months amid pressure from the right.

Government's preferred bill survives unchanged, but will it pass? 

The government defeated a parliamentary motion from more hardline Conservatives to make the bill more stringent on Tuesday, but almost a fifth of the party's lawamkers — more than expected — backed the proposal. 

Two members of the party, Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke Smith, resigned in protest, writing in their co-signed resignation letter: "Prime Minister, you pledged to do whatever it takes to stop the boats." 

The government needed votes from the opposition to secure an outright majority for dropping the changes. 

Should those who wanted to toughen up the bill vote the same way as opposition parties — and possibly a few moderate Conservatives — who oppose the policy entirely, it appears likely these two rather disparate groups would command a majority and topple the bill.

What's coming up on Wednesday

Sunak's surely likely to face questions on the issue publicly at lunchtime on Wednesday during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in parliament. As part of that exchange, opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer will be able to put a series of questions directly to Sunak. 

Thereafter, government ministers will address and face questions from members of the House of Commons, who will then debate and vote on the bill, quite possibly not until the evening. 

Wednesday's vote is the last, decisive one on the bill, known as third reading. If it fails, the government would effectively have to restart the process from scratch.

Sunak's allies said after Tuesday's surprising vote that they nevertheless remained confident the proposal would pass.  

"We will get it through, but I'm going to listen respectfully to my colleagues this afternoon," said Michael Tomlinson, illegal immigration minister, adding that Sunak had promised to recruit more judges to process any appeals.

Tomlinson said he expected the government would offer "further confirmation that it will be for ministers to decide" on sending migrants to Rwanda rather than the courts in another attempt to quell the rebellion.

What's the Rwanda policy? 

Britain's bid to relocate anyone entering the country illegally to Rwanda, where they could seek asylum instead with no prospect of residency in the UK, originally dates back to 2021, when Sunak was still former Prime Minister Boris Johnson's finance minster. 

Implementing the plan has proved challenging for successive Conservative governments, amid political and legal challenges alike. 

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