UK PM Sunak survives crunch vote on controversial Rwanda policy

Under the plan, the UK plans to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda while their asylum claims are processed and hopes it will act as a deterrent for people smugglers bringing migrants illegally to UK.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. (Photo | AP)
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. (Photo | AP)

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday night survived a crunch vote in Parliament as none of his party MPs voted against the government's Safety of Rwanda Bill. The vote in the House of Commons passed by 313 to 269, a majority of 44 votes.

Around 38 Conservative MPs were recorded as not taking part in the vote, with sacked Home Secretary Suella Braverman and resigned Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick believed to be among them.

Earlier, Sunak had launched a charm offensive at 10 Downing Street in a bid to win over MPs from within his Conservative Party threatening to rebel against the bill, aimed at overcoming legal hurdles in the way of deporting illegal migrants to the East African nation.

Ahead of the early-stage vote on the bill, Sunak hosted a breakfast summit for the Tory rebels on the extreme right of the party who are opposed to the bill because they feel it is not strong enough to circumvent legal challenges.

However, more centrist Tories are against the "toughest anti-immigration law ever" being toughened further to threaten the UK's human rights obligations. With the opposition parties voting against it, Tory rebels either voting against or abstaining in Tuesday night's vote to defeat the bill was seen as a test of Sunak's authority within his party.

More than 40 members on the Tory right continued to discuss how they would vote and many planned to abstain or vote against it.

Sunak's breakfast charm offensive ahead of a weekly Cabinet meeting proved enough to ensure he didn't become the first UK PM in nearly 40 years to face a defeat on a vote at such an early stage of a government bill.

This was just the first parliamentary test for the Safety of Rwanda Bill, referred to as the second reading in the Commons, giving MPs a chance to debate and vote on its main principles before any amendments.

The government says the policy aims to deter migrants from crossing the English Channel and it is central to the plan to "stop the boats", one of Sunak's top priorities ahead of a general election year in 2024.

Under the plan, the UK plans to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda while their asylum claims are processed and hopes it will act as a deterrent for people smugglers bringing migrants illegally to UK shores.

The new law is intended to deal with the UK Supreme Court having ruled the policy unlawful last month.

The opposition Labour Party has accused the Tories of infighting rather than coming up with workable solutions on the issue of illegal migration.

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