Rishi Sunak urged to make manifesto commitment for ECHR referendum

Rishi Sunak has been urged to make a Tory manifesto commitment for a referendum on UK membership of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Conservative former minister Dame Andrea Jenkyns said leaving the ECHR would allow the Government to deport failed asylum seekers “for free” rather than offer them £3,000.

The Home Office is looking at widening an existing voluntary scheme for those who have been refused asylum in Britain to include Rwanda as a destination.

The “voluntary return” scheme’s current terms include offering migrants financial assistance worth up to £3,000 to leave the UK for their country of origin.

Those who cannot return to their home country and would consider moving to Rwanda could be included in the future and the plan is separate from the Government’s stalled Rwanda deportation plan.

Tory MPs have repeatedly urged the UK Government to pull out of the ECHR, including after when the European Court of Human Rights granted an injunction that effectively grounded a flight sending asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda in 2022.

Parliament is currently considering the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which seeks to compel judges to regard the east African country as safe in a bid to clear the way to send asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats on a one-way flight to Rwanda.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Dame Andrea said: “I understand the latest scheme that is being considered is to pay migrants thousands of pounds to leave Britain. Prime Minister, let’s just leave the ECHR and deport them for free.

“So far over 40,000 Brits have signed my petition with the Conservative Post calling for us to leave the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Will the Prime Minister commit to leaving the ECHR or at the very least have it in our manifesto to have a referendum and let Britain decide?”

Mr Sunak replied: “(Dame Andrea) is absolutely right that we must do everything we can to secure our borders and ensure that those who come here illegally do not have the ability to stay.

“That’s why our Rwanda scheme and legislation is so important and what I’ve said repeatedly and will happily say to her again is I will not let a foreign court block our ability to send people to Rwanda when the time comes.”

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak said he would not let a foreign court block the UK’s ability to send people to Rwanda (House of Commons/UK Parliament)

“Let’s unite our movement and do that.”

SNP MP Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) questioned why Mr Sunak and others referred to the European Court of Human Rights as a “foreign court, as if there’s something inherently wrong with things being foreign, of people being foreign”.

He said: “In what way can a court the UK has belonged to since 1953, which has an Irish president and a UK justice with an LLB from Dundee be considered foreign?

“I think the House needs to hear the Prime Minister commit today to the UK’s continued membership of a court and a convention which has protected our rights and freedoms for over 70 years.”

Mr Sunak replied: “When it comes to the issue of tackling illegal migration when Parliament expresses a clear view on what it believes should happen, supports that with legislation and that we believe we’re acting in accordance with all our international obligations, I’ve been very clear that I will not let a foreign court stop us from sending illegal migrants to Rwanda.”

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –