Rishi Sunak is expected to raise the issue of the migrant crisis with French President Emmanuel Macron when the pair meet for the first time in Egypt on Monday.
The Prime Minister told The Sun newspaper that his “key priority” at the COP27 climate change conference was resolving the crisis of small boats crossing the Channel.
The Times reported the PM will press Macron to sign a deal to reduce crossings while at the summit. Sunak told the newspaper: “I have spent more time working on that in the last few days than anything else other than the autumn statement. We have to get a grip, do a range of things to stop it from happening, return people who shouldn’t be here in the first place.”
According to the paper, Britain and France are “close” to allowing Border Force staff on the beaches, with Sunak insisting he will continue to push for a deal with Macron.
Sunak also reportedly defended his decision to keep Suella Braverman as Home Secretary, telling The Sun that she is “completely focused.”
Meanwhile deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said Sunak is set to revive the British Bill of Rights as part of his government’s strategy to deal with the small boats crisis.
The legislation would give the UK courts supremacy over the European Court of Human Rights. Raab said the law will return to Parliament “in the coming weeks”.
The Bill was originally introduced under Boris Johnson, with ministers saying it would prevent judges in the Strasbourg court from interfering in the government’s controversial policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda to have their claims processed.
It then became shelved by Liz Truss when she became Prime Minister in September after government sources warned it was “unlikely to progress in its current form”.
The proposed legislation is unlikely to provide a quick fix though as it is highly controversial. The government is also likely to face a tough battle, particularly in the House of Lords, to get it on to the statute book.
‘Dangerous’ conditions at UK migrant centre
The move to introduce the legislation, and Sunak’s plans to discuss the migrant crisis with Macron, comes after the disclosure of dangerously overcrowded conditions at a processing centre at Manston in Kent.
It was revealed the former military base, which opened as a processing centre in February intending to hold a maximum of 1,600 people for 24 hours at a time, was housing around 4,000 for weeks on end. Some asylum seekers described the conditions inside as being like “a prison” and begged for help.
Ministers hope the prospect of deportation to the east African state will deter migrants from making the dangerous Channel crossing. However, they have so far been frustrated after an interim ruling by a judge in Strasbourg in June blocked the first deportation flights and they are now waiting for the UK courts to rule on whether the policy is legal.
In a statement, Raab said the Bill of Rights will “build on the UK’s proud tradition of liberty by strengthening freedom of speech, reinjecting a healthy dose of common sense to the system and ending abuse of our laws.”
He added: “It will put an end to the mission creep of continuously expanding human rights laws, and re-establish proper democratic oversight from Parliament. It will make crystal clear that the UK Supreme Court is not subordinate to the European Court of Human Rights.”