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Rishi Sunak appears to be trapped between competing wings of the Conservatives over his Rwanda plan as right-wingers warned they could stage a rebellion if his plan to save the policy is not hardline enough.
A right-leaning Tory MP told i those in favour of “disapplying” European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) rulings on the scheme were “prepared” to amend the Prime Minister’s upcoming emergency laws to allow the UK to ignore Strasbourg to get flights up and running.
But it came after Tory moderates told i that adopting an approach this tough would lead to rebellions in the Commons and Lords that could defeat the legislation, which is designed to save the policy after the Supreme Court ruled it unlawful last week.
The warnings of rebellions from opposite sides of the debate over the Rwanda plan appear to leave Mr Sunak caught between Tory factions as he tries to ensure his flagship policy to “stop the boats” crossing the Channel can be in operation ahead of the next election.
The right-leaning MP said Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron on Monday night told the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that the Prime Minister planned to delay the ECHR question until after a new Rwanda treaty and emergency laws have been tested in practice.
The MP cast doubt on this approach, adding: “ECHR-sceptics will think the legislation only fail and only apply more pressure for us to take action again.”
They said those in favour of a tougher approach were waiting to see the detail of Mr Sunak’s new laws but were “prepared” to make attempts to amend them “if necessary”.
The warning appears to leave Mr Sunak with little room for manoeuvre after Tory moderates suggested any attempt to disapply the ECHR would be resisted.
It leaves the Prime Minister with a potential choice of a backlash from right-wingers or potential defeat in Parliament at the hands of the party’s centrists, who would likely have the support of opposition parties.
Stephen Hammond, a senior MP on the 106-strong One Nation Tory caucus, told i: “Leaving the ECHR is a red line for most One Nation Conservatives. Although the PM is right to tackle the boat crossings, we shouldn’t do this in a way that compromises our values.”
Tory former immigration minister Lord Kirkhope added: “It would be extremely difficult to move that through Parliament.”
A new treaty with Rwanda is expected in the coming days, with emergency laws to follow.
Neither is likely to be passed through Parliament until early next year at the earliest.