LONDON — Rishi Sunak will make the case for reforming the European Court of Human Rights’ power to arbitrarily block U.K. deportation flights, at a Council of Europe summit Tuesday.
Ahead of his arrival in Iceland for the European summit — and a bilateral meeting with the court’s President Síofra O’Leary — No. 10 said that the British prime minister will say the “current international [migration] system is not working”.
“We need to do more to cooperate across borders and across jurisdictions to end illegal migration and stop the boats,” Sunak will say, according to pre-released remarks.
He will take aim at the Strasbourg court, which has used the Rule 39 regulation to block deportations to Rwanda since the U.K. unveiled its Rwanda scheme in 2022.
Some of Sunak’s most hard-line Conservative backbenchers have made the case for withdrawing from the court, venting their fury at Strasbourg judges who they feel are a block on U.K. efforts to “stop the boats” — a key aim of Sunak’s government which refers to mounting cross-Channel migration.
In April, Sunak caved to pressure and amended his flagship Illegal Migration Bill, introducing a power that would allow ministers to ignore interim Rule 39 injunctions from the ECHR. Under the amended bill, which is currently making its way through the House of Lords, these court-issued injunctions would be obeyed only in individual cases and if a minister personally chose to honor them.
European politicians and diplomats are unenthusiastic about the measure and have warned Sunak against attempting to bypass the Strasbourg court.
But rather than make the case for withdrawal from the court, Sunak will instead call Tuesday for European-wide reform of the court, in an effort to ensure his ministers would never have to use their new power.
According to No. 10, Sunak will make the case that any measures introduced by European governments — such as his Illegal Migration Bill — must go “hand in hand” with a global asylum framework that is “fit for purpose.”
Sunak will call for reform to the Rule 39 process, to ensure “proper transparency, greater accountability and ensuring decisions can be reconsidered,” according to No. 10.