On Wednesday, there is a significant event for the government as the supreme court will decide the legality of its proposal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The outcome of this decision could have far-reaching consequences, impacting not only immigration and asylum policies, but also shaping the future direction of Rishi Sunak’s government and the Conservative party as a whole. Let us explore the potential outcomes of a victory or defeat for the government.
The case has been won by the government.
Although the outcome of the case will not be made public until 10am on Wednesday, it is believed that the five justices of the supreme court who are hearing the case already know the decision. There is speculation that the process has been expedited, which could indicate that the government’s arguments will be rejected, supporting the appeal court’s ruling from June. Interestingly, a loss in this case may actually be viewed as a positive outcome by some within No 10.
If the top court approves the deportation plan, Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman will be obligated to implement a policy that has been criticized for being mostly symbolic and unlikely to successfully reduce the number of individuals entering the UK via small boats.
About 46,000 individuals took the Channel journey in the previous year. Although the numbers have decreased in 2023, they are still significantly higher than the number of people who can be transported to Rwanda, despite the fact that the program theoretically has no limit. The goal is to discourage people from making the trip, but even this is uncertain.
Sunak and Suella Braverman, who is currently the home secretary, face another potential risk with this policy. While it may be popular with certain voters in theory, the potential negative impact of tearful deportations and potential future reports of mistreatment in Rwanda or repeated attempts to enter the UK may harm its overall support.
The government may face significant political repercussions if one of its main policies fails, potentially causing far-right voters to consider more extreme immigration policies proposed by Reform UK. Meanwhile, Conservative members on the opposite side of the party may be swayed by the Liberal Democrats.
This does not necessarily imply that ministers desire to lose; the repercussions of the policy being invalidated could potentially cause even greater instability for the Tories than a victory would.
The case is lost by the government.
It is not difficult to anticipate the immediate political timeline following the supreme court’s decision to declare Rwanda’s policy as illegal. Sunak and Braverman would express regret over the failure of a plan that they could still argue would have been successful, without having to provide evidence from actual implementation.
It is possible that there will be a lot of criticism from conservative media and commentators against judges who intervene, possibly resulting in Lords Reed, Hodge, Lloyd-Jones, Briggs and Sales being labeled as enemies of the people, or at the very least, supporters of people smugglers.
Following that, the situation would become more complex. With halting small boat crossings as one of the five promised actions, Sunak would have to find alternative methods, including improving collaboration with France and the EU as a whole – not exactly familiar territory for Braverman and her colleague in immigration, Robert Jenrick.
The government has recently achieved success in reducing the number of Albanian citizens crossing the Channel. This coincides with the Home Office’s efforts to promptly send individuals back to a country deemed safe.
Government officials have announced their intention to include India and Georgia in the list of countries deemed safe for travel. There have also been discussions about potentially adding Turkey and Egypt to the list, but this idea has been dismissed by officials who deny that Jenrick has suggested including Iraq. In addition, there is a suggestion to establish a formal treaty with Rwanda for deportation purposes, giving it stronger legal backing.
Some members of the Conservative party may view these actions as mere adjustments, leading them to urge Sunak to contemplate leaving the European convention on human rights (ECHR).
The Mail on Sunday reports that Braverman plans to make this the main focus of the upcoming election, with a campaign similar to the 2019 slogan “Get Brexit done” called “Quit the ECHR”. There are also rumors that she may leave her government position in order to push for this objective.
Sunak would face significant risks in making this decision, regardless of the consequences of the home secretary’s resignation. Rejecting Braverman’s alleged proposal could anger the conservative faction of the party, while agreeing to it could potentially divide the party due to strong opposition from the moderate one nation caucus.
Unfortunately, due to the circumstances of a prime minister who entered 10 Downing Street without being elected and after 12 years of Conservative control, the ideal solution would be one that is not possible: to not begin from this point.