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Rishi Sunak hit by growing warnings of 'oblivion' for Tories gripped by civil war over immigration

Rishi Sunak hit by growing warnings of 'oblivion' for Tories gripped by civil war over immigration

Rishi Sunak faced growing warnings that the Conservatives are facing “oblivion” as the party was gripped by civil war.

South East MP Adam Holloway echoed the prediction from ex-Home Secretary Suella Braverman as the Tories were hit with infighting over their Rwanda deportation policy.

Asked on Times Radio if he agrees with Mrs Braverman that the Conservatives face “electoral oblivion” if they fail to pass laws stopping migrants crossing the channel, Gravesham MP Mr Holloway said: “I completely agree with that.

“And, you know, the people who provide that oblivion and I understand why they would do it - should think very carefully, too about what they wish for. Because do we do we honestly think that Labour would be any better? I mean, it’s a council of despair, actually. What on earth are we doing?”

Speaking after the resignation of immigration minister Robert Jenrick, former army officer Mr Holloway added: “I mean, when you’ve got somebody who’s a proper expert on the subject, as I guess you would be if you’re the immigration minister and you’re the person responsible for steering through a piece of new law in order to sort out a problem that is a concern of the British people.

“And you feel you have to resign because the Government and the civil servants don’t seem to agree with you or your view on what needs to be done in order to exert the will of the British people. And it’s pretty worrying, isn’t it?”

Mr Jenrick told the Prime Minister on Wednesday that his draft Bill aimed at stopping small boat crossings “does not go far enough” and is a “triumph of hope over experience”.

Mr Sunak’s long-term political ally argued that he had to quit because he has “such strong disagreements” with his approach to immigration.

Speaking on LBC Radio, Cabinet minister Chris Heaton-Harris denied the Prime Minister's authority was in shreds and that the party was facing oblivion.

He described as "highly unlikely" that Mr Sunak would face a no confidence vote in his leadership, adding that the PM was "surprised" by Mr Jenrick's resignation given that he had helped to draw up the new policy.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said it was a “great shame” that Mr Jenrick had quit as immigration minister over Mr Sunak’s latest Rwanda policy.

He told GB News that Mr Jenrick was “probably resigning on the wrong thing” because the legislation was removing legal obstacles to the plan, such as the Human Rights Act.

“You’ll be really having to go some to be able to prove that you’ll be in immediate harm or danger if you went to Rwanda to be pulled off a flight.

“I think the chances that are... vanishingly small.”

But former Home Secretary Dame Priti Patel tweeted on Thursday morning: "The Government must ensure that this new treaty is robust enough to withstand the inevitable legal challenges, and curb illegal migration."

Veteran Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope told Times Radio: "I'm certainly hoping to see that the bill is much strengthened so it becomes effective."

He believes the "small boats" can only be stopped if Britain pulls out of the European Convention on Human Rights.

He added that he still had confidence in the Prime Minister.

Thatcherite former Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood stressed: "The proposed small boats legislation needs to stop the boats as promised. The will of Parliament to stop this evil trade needs to be effectively expressed to any court that might wish to disagree."

The draft Bill compels judges to treat Rwanda as a safe country after the Supreme Court ruled the scheme was unlawful over risks to refugees.

The legislation, which must be voted on by Parliament, gives ministers the powers to disregard sections of the Human Rights Act.

But it does not go as far as providing allowing them to dismiss the European Convention on Human Rights, as hardliners including sacked home secretary Suella Braverman have demanded.

Mrs Braverman’s allies made clear that the legislation is “fatally flawed”, indicating that she believes it will quickly lead the Tories into “electoral oblivion”.

Mr Sunak reportedly told Conservative backbenchers at the 1922 Committee shortly before Mr Jenrick quit that they must “unite or die”.

In his resignation letter, Mr Jenrick said he was “grateful” for Mr Sunak moving towards his position on the legislation, but added he does not “believe it provides us with the best possible chance of success”.

Mr Jenrick said they must do “whatever it takes” to stop Channel crossings, adding: “This emergency legislation is the last opportunity to prove this, but in its current drafting it does not go far enough.”

Mr Sunak wrote back to Mr Jenrick to tell him his resignation was “disappointing”.

“I fear that your departure is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation,” he said. “If we were to oust the courts entirely, we would collapse the entire scheme.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly wrote on the front page of the legislation that he cannot guarantee that it is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Bill says that “every decision-maker” – specifically mentioning the courts – “must conclusively treat the Republic of Rwanda as a safe country”.

It states that ministers will decide whether to ignore interim measures issued by the European Court of Human Rights which have previously scuppered flights.

Combined with the new legally binding treaty brokered with Rwanda, the Government hopes it can get the policy first announced in April last year off the ground.

The publication of the legislation came after Mrs Braverman warned the Tories face “electoral oblivion in a matter of months” if the legislation introduced is “destined to fail”.

The sacked home secretary, who commands support on the party’s right, said the Bill must contain powers to override the European Convention on Human Rights and “all other international law”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday about the party's fate, she said: "We don't have a death wish - we need to stop the boats."

But she added: "We can't keep failing the British people.

"We have now run out of time."

But complying with her demands would have left Mr Sunak facing other possible ministerial resignations, an outcry from his MPs from the more centrist One Nation faction and an even rougher ride for the Bill through the House of Lords.

A source close to Mrs Braverman quickly made clear that the Bill “will be bogged down in the courts for months and months. And it won’t stop the boats”.

The One Nation grouping, however, cautiously welcomed that the draft legislation will “continue to meet the UK’s international commitments which uphold the rule of law”.