Boris Johnson is backing a rebel Tory plan to begin deportations of asylum seekers to Rwanda ignoring a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
Rishi Sunak faces a fresh challenge from hardliners to step up his crackdown on cross-Channel crossings – just a day after announcing new measures to tackle the small boat crisis.
A backbench bill, also backed by former cabinet ministers Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg – which will be debated on Wednesday – aims to reclaim “parliamentary sovereignty” over the court.
Supporters say that by ignoring the court ruling that blocked flights to Rwanda, deportations could finally begin, although the controversial policy is also being challenged in UK courts.
They claim Mr Sunak – whose asylum case did not mention the European Court – is breaking his promise not to allow the Court “to hinder our ability to properly control our borders”.
The ten-minute bill is unlikely to move forward, but the government is expected to oppose it, triggering an uncomfortable vote on an issue undermining public support for the Tories.
Mr Johnson’s intervention comes after he helped force Mr Sunak to turn back on onshore wind farms, adding to the evidence he will be a thorn in the side of the benches.
Jonathan Gullis, the Conservative MP who introduced the bill, said: “Immigration lawyers were able to stop deportations to Rwanda thanks to appeals to the ECHR in Strasbourg.
“The British people place their trust in Parliament, not in irresponsible European courts. We believe that Parliament is the ultimate legislative body. Therefore, it is shocking that we have allowed these judgments to hamper our immigration policy.
Ms Patel, then home secretary, signed a deal with Rwanda to deport asylum seekers arriving in the UK, but the Brussels court issued an injunction before legal challenges in the UK.
Many Tory MPs say it is the only way to break the business model of criminal gangs running Channel crossings – although the Home Office has produced no evidence that this is the case.
In an article for The Daily TelegraphMr Gullis wrote that during the summer Tory leadership campaign, the future Prime Minister vowed “where the ECHR is an issue, I will tackle it”.
The MP added: “It is unacceptable for the European Court of Human Rights to undermine the will of the British people.”
On Tuesday, Mr Sunak staked his credibility on successfully reducing the number of crossings, which are expected to hit 50,000 this calendar year.
New guidelines will “clearly state that Albania is a safe country”, so asylum claims must be rejected and modern slavery laws will be watered down.
The number of asylum caseworkers will be doubled, to clear up a huge backlog of claims, and legislation early next year will ensure that no one entering the UK illegally will be allowed to stay.