The prime minister came out fighting - but refused to rule out holding an election if peers thwart his embattled plan to ‘stop the boats’.
Damian Green, deputy PM under Theresa May, said the sacked home secretary wanted to do “what Putin and Xi Jinping do” in her latest bid to ensure deportation flights to Rwanda can take off, while Tory former minister Tobias Ellwood said she was behaving like a dictator.
It came as Ms Braverman - who was dramatically sacked on Monday - set out a five-point plan which she said would get the failed deportation scheme back on track. She lashed out at Mr Sunak’s planned solution to change the law to declare Rwanda a safe country, saying it was unlikely to see asylum seekers deported there before the next election.
In an article for The Daily Telegraph, Ms Braverman demanded an “end to government self-deception and spin” and said “tinkering” with the failed plan would “not stop the boats”.
“There must be no more magical thinking,” she added. Ms Braverman argued that amending the UK’s agreement with Rwanda to include a ban on sending any rejected asylum seekers back to the countries they fled “will not solve the fundamental issue”.
Instead, she said ministers should address concerns raised by the five senior judges who ruled the scheme was unlawful about Rwanda’s asylum and legal system by “embedding UK observers and independent reviewers of asylum decisions”.
And she extraordinarily called for new laws to “exclude all avenues of legal challenge”, including banning asylum seekers from challenging their deportation, so that international obligations, such as the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), are “disapplied”.
Mr Green, chairman of the One Nation group of moderate Tory MPs, said Ms Braverman’s suggestion that Britain disregards international law was “the most unconservative statement I have ever heard from a Conservative politician”.
He said: “Giving the state the explicit power to override every legal constraint is what Putin and Xi do. We absolutely cannot go there.”
The former head of the government’s legal department also slammed Ms Braverman’s proposals.
Jonathan Jones KC said: “For the sake of putting (at most) a few hundred people on a plane to a place recently found to be unsafe by our highest court [not a foreign court]: She wants the UK to breach every relevant international treaty on torture, mistreatment, detention or fair process.”
For the sake of putting (at most) a few hundred people on a plane to a place recently found to be unsafe by our highest court [not a foreign court]:
- she wants the UK to breach every relevant international treaty on torture, mis-treatment, detention or fair process /1 pic.twitter.com/0j8TVN0rlQ
— Jonathan Jones (@SirJJKC) November 17, 2023
Senior Tory Mr Ellwood added that Ms Braverman’s behaviour was “completely incompatible with both our democratic and Party values. Bypassing scrutiny to expedite law change is straight from the dictator’s handbook”.
But veteran right-wing Tory MP Sir Bill Cash said Mr Sunak’s emergency Rwanda legislation was “no good” if it did not have clear so-called “notwithstanding” clauses.
He said: “The position is that if the law in a statute is expressly stated, clear and unambiguous, then the courts will follow that legislation.”
Responding to criticism that Britain could be in breach of its international obligations, Sir Bill dismissed the idea as “completely false”.
Sir Bill, who has practised as a constitutional lawyer, told The Independent: “There are some people who believe that it is an absolutely standalone requirement to obey international law, when actually it is well known that in many, many cases, there are moments of national interest where a breach of international law can be justified.
“And it is already conducted by many other states including the EU itself, let alone France, Germany, Denmark... I could go through the list.”
The MP also warned of a “constitutional crisis” if the House of Lords blocks the laws, expected to be put to parliament within days.
He said the upper chamber is “an unelected body” and “would be putting itself in jeopardy” if it opposed the prime minister’s plan.
Hours after the Supreme Court ruled the Rwanda scheme unlawful, Mr Sunak said he would bring in emergency laws to deem Rwanda a safe country for asylum seekers and sign a new treaty with the country to address the court’s concerns.
But Ms Braverman warned his plan would get snarled up in domestic and European courts and demanded a tougher approach.
A key Braverman ally meanwhile warned that without a crackdown on small boats, “people will turn to other forces”. Ex-cabinet minister Simon Clarke called for a general election on the issue – saying: “We need the legislation that is brought forward to be truly effective, and if the Lords block it - let’s take it to the country.”
Mr Sunak rejected the calls, insisting his plan was “not about over-ruling laws”. He also denied allegations his plan amounted to “tinkering” with the rejected scheme. “No.. the progress we’ve made this year on tackling this issue is meaningful,” he said on a visit to Bolsover.
But he refused to rule out calling an election if the House of Lords thwarts his last-ditch bill to send small boats arrivals to Rwanda. He added: “Whether it’s the House of Lords or the Labour Party standing in our way I will take them on because I want to get this thing done and I want to stop the boats.”
Former Home Office permanent secretary Sir David Normington also poured cold water on Ms Braverman’s proposal to stop asylum seekers challenging their deportation to Rwanda. He said: "I really don't think that that is possible. I think in the end the Supreme Court wouldn't allow that.
"I'm not a lawyer, but in the end it's just against all normal rights, isn't it, to remove the rights of people to go to the courts?" he told BBC Radio 4.
Mr Green said he would oppose any proposal to pass a law seeking to block the application of international treaties.
He told the BBC:"If we Conservatives don’t believe that the state should be controlled by the law, that the government has to obey the law as much as you or I have to obey the law, then that seems to me to be very profoundly unconservative,” he added.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also slammed Mr Sunak for chasing “expensive gimmicks” and called on him to instead pursue a “serious solution” to small boat channel crossings.