Politics

Oh, dear! Rishi Sunak’s Safety of Rwanda Act was supposed to prevent this sort of legal challenge.

The ink is barely dry on the act after it became law last month, and the government has already lost its first battle in the courts.

Ruling ‘blows claims about Rwanda plan out of water’ – live updates

The judgment by the High Court in Belfast is actually a ruling on the previous anti-small boats legislation, the Illegal Migration Act, which was passed last year.

But even though a clearly annoyed Mr Sunak says it changes nothing and the government will appeal, it bodes ill for the PM and potentially opens the door to more legal challenges.

The judge, Mr Justice Michael Humphreys, seemed to suggest the Rwanda policy was flawed on not one, not two, but three counts.

First, that it’s incompatible with Tony Blair’s Good Friday Agreement, second with Mr Sunak’s own Windsor Framework, and third the European Convention on Human Rights so loathed by many Tory MPs.

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2:36

Sky News speaks to Rwanda deportee

‘Told you so!’

A bullish Mr Sunak claims nothing will distract him from his plans to get flights to Rwanda off the ground.

Really, prime minister?

The government is already locked in a war of words with the Irish government over the Rwanda policy, with Dublin threatening to send migrants who cross the border from Northern Ireland to the Republic back to the UK.

Now Mr Sunak’s under fire too from his former friends in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose interim leader Gavin Robinson responded to the Belfast court judgment by effectively declaring: “Told you so!”

He points out, not unreasonably, that the government ignored warnings from the DUP that this sort of legal challenge would happen and also rejected his party’s attempt to amend the Safety of Rwanda Bill in the Commons and the Lords to close loopholes in the legislation.

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8:56

‘No Rwanda flights under Labour’

An effective deterrent?

Mr Sunak will no doubt blame “leftie lawyers” hell-bent on blocking his stop the boats policy for this legal setback. But the DUP are hardly lefties and the PM could do without another row with them.

And despite his bullish response to this Belfast judgment, if there are to be further legal challenges, that could undermine the government’s claim that the Safety of Rwanda Bill really will be an effective deterrent.

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