Factions in Rishi Sunak's party make public their views on the Rwanda policy.
Rishi Sunak will have to plot a narrow path to get his controversial Rwanda bill through parliament despite getting much-needed support from Tory moderates.
On the eve of a crunch vote, the One Nation group of Conservative MPs said they will vote for the prime minister’s Rwanda legislation despite their “concerns”.
Backing came after the right-wing European Research Group (ERG) urged Sunak to ditch the bill. Meanwhile, the New Conservatives, a faction also on the party’s right, suggested the bill needs “major surgery”.
Since the Conservatives have a working majority of 56 MPs in parliament, Sunak should be able to get his legislation through comfortably. But a big Tory revolt is potentially on the cards, and a defeat on his flagship immigration policy could be disastrous for the Sunak premiership that is less than 18 months old.
Damian Green, the Tory MP who chairs the One Nation Caucus, said: “We have taken the decision that the most important thing at this stage is to support the bill despite our real concerns.
“We strongly urge the government to stand firm against any attempt to amend the bill in a way that would make it unacceptable to those who believe that support for the rule of law is a basic Conservative principle.”
A spokesman of the New Conservatives said: “More than 40 colleagues met tonight to discuss the bill.
“Every member of that discussion said the bill needs major surgery or replacement and they will be making that plain in the morning to the PM at breakfast and over the next 24 hours.”
Earlier, MPs from ERG met in parliament to discuss what position to take.
Mark Francois, the chairman of the ERG, told reporters in Westminster the government should go away and come back with a new plan.
“The government would be best advised to pull the bill,” he said. “And to come up with a revised version that works better than this one which has so many holes in it.”
While Francois said a decision on how his group would vote has not yet been taken, the government should take “hints” from his comments.
The veteran backbencher added: “This is kind of three strikes and you’re out.”
MPs are due to vote on Tuesday on a bill which the prime minister has said will overcome legal challenges to his policy of sending people seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda instead – the centrepiece of his “stop the boats” plan.
It emerged after James Cleverly became the third home secretary to sign a deal with Rwanda, meaning the country’s foreign minister, Vincent Biruta, once again appeared alongside a Tory minister for a signing ceremony.