After the resignation of Robert Jenrick last night, Rishi Sunak sought to get on the front foot this morning with a press conference in No. 10. The Prime Minister cut a somewhat frustrated figure as he defended his new Rwanda legislation, insisting that it ‘blocks every single reason that has ever been used to prevent flights.’ ‘The only extremely narrow exception will be if you can prove with credible and compelling evidence that you specifically have a real and imminent risk of serious and irreversible harm’ Sunak told reporters.
If the government face challenges from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, Sunak repeated that he would not allow a foreign court to block flights. But were the bill to go any further, Sunak warned, the Rwandans will pull out and the scheme will collapse, pointing to Kigali’s statement last night. The Prime Minister ended by reiterating his absolute commitment to seeing the Rwanda plan through, calling on ‘everyone’ to support his new Bill and trying to turn the tables on Labour. ‘We have a plan’, he told the room ‘What is their plan?’ he asked. He also, crucially, confirmed that next Tuesday’s vote on his legislation will not be a vote of confidence in his government.
Sunak’s appearance came shortly after the ministerial changes were announced to fill the gap left by Robert Jenrick. His Immigration brief has now been split in two. Michael Tomlinson assumes responsibility for illegal migration while Tom Pursglove takes the legal migration brief. Robert Courts meanwhile steps into Tomlinson’s place as Solicitor-General. These appointments appear to be designed to reassure the right of the party: all three men are Brexiteers who left their posts on principle during the Theresa May years.
Now that the Rwanda legislation has been published, there could well be a temporary pause in hostilities before the Second Reading of the Bill on Tuesday.