James Joseph is JURIST’s UK Senior Editor and a Ph.D. student at King’s College London.
In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Tuesday, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman launched a withering attack on the PM’s ability to uphold law and order, presenting the most pressing challenge to his premiership to date. This comes off the back of changes being lodged on multiple fronts to the UK Government’s recent pledges to stop illegal migration and Channel crossings, efforts which have prompted concerns about the UK’s ability to upholding its obligations under international law.
UK commitment to the Rule of Law
Earlier this year the Lords Committee said in its report on the roles of the Lord Chancellor and the Law Officers that the Government’s commitment to the rule of law has been brought into question in recent years:
“It is … essential that we have a Lord Chancellor who is willing and able, where necessary, to stand up to Cabinet colleagues and the Prime Minister, and Law Officers with the autonomy and strength of character to deliver impartial legal advice to the Government, even where it is unwelcome. This will help to ensure that the UK remains compliant with the rule of law, including its international obligations.”
“The rule of law is vitally important to the health of our democracy. We urge the Government to renew and strengthen its commitment to this fundamental tenet of our constitution.”
A report from Human Rights Organisation JUSTICE furthered that “The UK’s longstanding commitment to the Rule of Law is under grave threat with Baroness Helena Kennedy KC commenting “the rule of law in this country is under unprecedented threat […] The UK should be leading the way as a stalwart in the rule of law and democracy, not rolling back domestic protections.”
In the letter, posted on the platform X (former Twitter) the former Home Secretary said she was “proud of what we achieved together: delivering on our manifesto pledge to recruit 20,000 new police officers at enacting new laws such as the Public Order Act 2023 and the National Security Act 2023.” She noted that Sunak’s 5 law and order priorities were “pivotal factors in winning the leadership contest and thus enabling you to become Prime Minister.” Now, however, having “worked up the legal advice, policy detail and action to take on these issues” Braverman said she saw a “disregard and a lack of interest” from the Prime Minister.
These comments come as Braverman accused Sunak of “betrayal of his promise to the nation” in her first statement since being dismissed in a government reshuffle. The former Home Secretary accused the Prime Minister of “wishful thinking” over his promises to stop the boats, another of his pledges which may yet be thwarted by a Supreme Court Judgement expected tomorrow.
Rwanda Plan and the UK Supreme Court judgement
Speaking on the anticipated judgement of the UK Supreme Court on the UK’s Rwanda Plan to send asylum seekers to distant places such as Rwanda, Braverman said “If we lose in the Supreme Court,[…] you will have wasted a year and an Act of Parliament, only to arrive back at square one. ” She further accused the PM of “magical thinking”, saying “there is no hope of flights [to Rwanda] this side of an election.”
Braverman went on to say that, in the event the Supreme Court upholding the legality of the agreement on Rwanda flights “because of the compromises that you insisted on in the Illegal Migration Act, the Government will [still] struggle to deliver our Rwanda partnership in the way that the public expects”, observing that “The Act is far from secure against legal challenge”, especially highlighting the fact that under Rule 39 of the ECHR “the average claimant will be entitled to months of process, challenge, and appeal [… and that] will leave us vulnerable to being thwarted yet again by the Strasbourg Court”.
“You need to change course urgently.”
The former Home Secretary ended her letter to the Prime Minister with the scathing conclusion that “your plan is not working, we have endured record [by-]election defeats, your resets have failed and we are running out of time. You need to change course urgently.”
The Prime Minister’s Spokesperson responded to the letter by saying that “the Prime Minister believes in action not words” and that he is “proud to have brought forward the toughest legislations to tackle illegal migration this country has ever seen”. The No 10 Spokesperson confirmed that regardless of the outcome in the Supreme Court tomorrow, the Prime Minister “will continue his work”.
Opinions expressed in JURIST Dispatches are solely those of our correspondents in the field and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.