Rishi Sunak has said he will introduce emergency legislation to make sure his Rwanda plan is not blocked again and said “flights will be heading off in the spring as planned”.
After the Supreme Court ruling that the flagship asylum policy is unlawful, the prime minister said he has been working on a new international treaty with the African nation to address the judges’ concerns and ensure it is “safe”.
He said: “This will provide a guarantee in law that those who are relocated from the UK to Rwanda will be protected against removal from Rwanda and it will make clear that we will bring back anyone if ordered to do so by a court.
“We will finalise this treaty in light of today’s judgment and ratify it without delay.”
He added: “We need to end the merry-go-round. I said I was going to fundamentally change our country, and I meant it.
“So I’m also announcing today that we will take the extraordinary step of introducing emergency legislation. This will enable parliament to confirm that with our new treaty, Rwanda is safe.”
In its ruling on Wednesday, the UK’s highest court said refugees sent to Rwanda would be at “real risk” of being returned to their country of origin, whether their grounds to claim asylum were justified or not – breaching international law.
The decision represents a huge blow to the government’s flagship immigration policy aimed at stopping Channel crossings – a pledge Mr Sunak has staked his premiership on.
The prime minister acknowledged that it is not just domestic courts that have blocked the policy – as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued injunctions to halt the deportations in June.
He is resisting pressure from the Tory right to pull the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) but vowed: “I will not allow a foreign court to block these flights.”
“If the Strasbourg court chooses to intervene against the express wishes of parliament, I am prepared to do what is necessary to get flights off,” he said.
“We are a reasonable government and this is a reasonable country, but the British people’s patience can only be stretched so far.”
Mr Sunak said he is “delivering” on his pledge to stop the boats, and the new treaty is “ready to go” to reassure the courts.
“We will clear the remaining barriers and flights will be heading off in the spring as planned,” he said.
He is under pressure from some Tory MPs to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and potentially other treaties, in order to push forward with the plan.
Suella Braverman, who was sacked as home secretary on Monday, has called for emergency legislation to “block off the ECHR and other routes of legal challenge”.
Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson said the government should “ignore the laws” and send migrants back the same day they arrive in the UK.