Rishi Sunak tries to quell Conservative revolt over Rwanda plan for 2nd day

LONDON: British PM Rishi Sunak faces a test of his authority and his nerve on Wednesday as he tries to subdue a Conservative Party rebellion and win parliamentary approval for his stalled plan to send some asylum-seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda.
Lawmakers are due to vote on a bill that aims to overcome a UK Supreme Court block on the Rwanda plan, a day after some 60 members of Sunak’s governing Conservatives rebelled in an effort to make the legislation tougher. The dissent cost Sunak two party deputy chairmen, who quit in order to vote against the government on the amendments. A junior ministerial aide also resigned.
A similar rebellion on Wednesday would doom the Safety of Rwanda Bill, and potentially Sunak’s 15-month-old government. With polls showing the Conservatives trailing far behind the Labour opposition in opinion polls, Sunak has made the controversial – and expensive – immigration policy central to his attempt to win an election this year. He argues that deporting unauthorised asylum-seekers will deter people from making risky journeys across the English Channel and break the business model of people-smuggling gangs. “We have a plan. It’s working,” Sunak said Wednesday in the House of Commons. He needs to convince fellow Conservatives, as well as voters, that it’s true.
But the liberal and law-and-order wings of the Conservatives – always uneasy allies – are at loggerheads over the Rwanda plan. Moderates worry the policy is too extreme, concerns underscored when the UN’ refugee agency said this week the Rwanda plan “is not compatible with international refugee law.” However, many on the party’s powerful right wing think the bill doesn’t go far enough in deterring migration to the UK.
Hard-liners’ attempts to toughen the bill by closing avenues of appeal for asylum-seekers failed Tuesday, and some of the Conservative rebels say they will oppose the legislation as a whole if it is not strengthened. If about 30 Tory lawmakers vote against the bill, it could be enough, along with opposition votes, to kill the legislation. But many Conservative lawmakers may hesitate to take the option of killing Sunak’s signature policy, which could trigger panicky moves to replace him or even spark a snap election. The government has to call a national election by the end of the year.
Sunak insists the bill goes as far as the government can because Rwanda will pull out of its agreement to rehouse asylum-seekers if the UK breaks international law.
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