Sunak to Appeal N. Ireland Court Ruling on His Migration Policy

(Bloomberg) -- Rishi Sunak’s government said it will appeal a Northern Ireland court ruling that found key parts of the UK’s immigration policy cannot apply in the region because they contravene Brexit rules agreed with the European Union.

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The High Court in Belfast said several elements of the UK’s Illegal Migration Act, which was passed last year and underpins the premier’s plan to stop the arrival of asylum-seekers in Britain, should be “disapplied” in Northern Ireland. The judge’s argument was that the legislation undermines human rights provisions contained in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that the EU and UK had guaranteed would be upheld.

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Speaking at a regular briefing with reporters on Monday, Sunak’s spokesman, Dave Pares, said the government would appeal. “The commitments in the Good Friday Agreement should be interpreted as they were always intended, and not expanded to cover issues like illegal migration,” he said.

The government also denied that the ruling would affect its plans to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda, another key aspect of Sunak’s promised crackdown. The prime minister has made stopping the boats carrying asylum-seekers across the English Channel one of his core pledges ahead of a general election expected in the second half of the year.

But Sunak’s spokesman repeatedly declined to engage when asked if the Belfast ruling would mean more asylum-seekers would try to reach Northern Ireland to avoid being deported to Rwanda. The Democratic Unionist Party accused Sunak’s government of ignoring its warning about the migration policy and the risk that it would contravene Brexit rules.

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The issue is especially sensitive for Sunak, who regards his agreement with the EU to end months of wrangling over Northern Ireland as one of his major achievements in office. But that is being strained by the migration issue, after the Irish government also suggested that Sunak’s Rwanda plan was driving more asylum-seekers to the Republic from Northern Ireland.

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