Ministers ‘determined’ to get Rwanda removal flight off before the election

Home Secretary James Cleverly defended the Rwanda policy (Leon Neal/PA)
Home Secretary James Cleverly defended the Rwanda policy (Leon Neal/PA) Home Secretary James Cleverly defended the Rwanda policy (Leon Neal/PA)

Ministers are “absolutely determined” to get a removal flight to Rwanda off before the next election, Home Secretary James Cleverly has said, after the policy was ruled unlawful.

The Cabinet minister said he does not “think” the UK will need to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as they come under pressure from the Tory right.

He defended plans for emergency legislation to get Parliament to deem Rwanda a “safe” country despite the Supreme Court’s concerns over risks to asylum seekers.

But Mr Cleverly was unable to deny that he privately described the policy of removing migrants who arrive by unauthorised means to east Africa as “batshit”.

The Government is working to broker a new legally binding treaty on top of the £140 million deal already struck with Kigali after five top justices ruled against the policy on Wednesday.

Mr Cleverly insisted that MPs could ratify the treaty once it is agreed and pass new laws within days.

“The whole process won’t necessarily be done and dusted just in a few days, but the actual parliamentary process can be that quick,” he told Times Radio.

The Prime Minister and many of his Conservative MPs are concerned that a failure to “stop the boats” will hit them badly at the next general election, expected within a year.

Asked if a flight will take off before then, the Home Secretary told Times Radio: “We’re absolutely determined to make that happen.”

But he admitted “the timescales that we are looking at can vary depending on circumstances”.

Yvette Cooper, his Labour shadow, has accused Mr Cleverly of not really believing in the Rwanda scheme, alleging that he once described it as “batshit” in private.

Mr Cleverly did not deny saying it, instead telling Sky News: “I don’t recognise that phrase, and the point that I’ve made, and the point I made at the despatch box, is that the Rwanda scheme is an important part – but only a part – of the range of responses we have to illegal migration.”