The DUP is putting forward an amendment of its own to Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill, after its eight MPs joined a failed effort to toughen up the controversial legislation that has caused a major divide in the Conservative Party.
The Rwanda Safety Bill is facing its third reading in the House of Commons, and on Tuesday evening MPs voted on an amendment by Sir Bill Cash to ensure the British government would not be bound by international human rights laws regarding sending migrants to Rwanda.
The amendment - one of two by Tories to be voted on - was defeated in the Commons, with 529 MPs voting against it, but 60 Conservative MPs were joined by eight DUPs in favour of it.
The Conservative number amounts to a significant rebellion against the prime minister.
Following the amendment defeat, the two deputy chairmen of the Conservatives, Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith resigned from their positions.
In their joint resignation letter to Mr Sunak, the pair said they were backing the amendments “not because we are against the legislation, but because like everybody else we want it to work”.
They added: “Whilst our main wish is to strengthen the legislation, this means that in order to vote for amendments we will therefore need to offer you our resignations from our roles.”
A second amendment by former immigration minister Robert Jenrick, which sought to limit the ability for individuals to make claims against their deportation to Rwanda, was also defeated with 525 MPs voting against it - including the SDLP’s two MPs, Claire Hanna and party leader Colum Eastwood - with 58 in favour.
Spoke in debate on noxious Rwanda Bill, about the movement of people since the beginning of time, the extent to which our economy & services rely on people from other countries & how our ’immigration problem’ is young people leaving because of mean spirited & stultifying politics pic.twitter.com/AXF12fPvXE— Claire Hanna (@ClaireHanna) January 16, 2024
The DUP abstained from voting on this amendment.
However, on Wednesday the party is tabling an amendment that seeks to add to the bill: “The provisions of this Act shall have effect in Northern Ireland.”
The DUP’s amendment is being tabled in a bid to prevent the Rwanda legislation from not taking effect in the north as a result of EU law overriding UK law.
East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson has previously said he believes the Northern Ireland could become a “magnet for people who may find that the route to stay in the United Kingdom is blocked”.
Meanwhile, ahead of Tuesday’s votes, Mr Jenrick revealed to Sky News’ Beth Rigby that former Attorney General for Northern Ireland, Belfast-born John Larkin, was advising the Tory rebels.
A third amendment was put forward by the Labour party on Tuesday evening, which aimed to insert a clause in the bill setting out the circumstances in which Rwanda would no longer be deemed a safe country, was also defeated by 262 votes in favour, to 336 against.