DUP says Joe Kennedy, Biden's new economic envoy for Northern Ireland, must show he's even-handed

Joe Kennedy III, the 42-year-old scion of one of America’s most famous political families, has agreed to serve as the special envoy to Northern Ireland for economic affairs, the US state department has announced. My colleague Edward Helmore has the story here.

Irish Americans like Kennedy are often more sympathetic to the nationalist cause in Northern Ireland than unionism and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, said it would be up to Kennedy to show he was even-handed. He said:

We welcome the fact that the United States is interested in developing economic links with Northern Ireland.

The appointment of an envoy demonstrates that commitment.

I think it is for Joe Kennedy to prove he will be even-handed in his approach.

He needs to take account of unionist views and concerns in relation to the economy.

While his role is economic matters, one can’t avoid the (Northern Ireland) protocol and the harm it is doing to our economy.

It will be important for the United States to gain a better understanding of the real concerns that unionists have about the protocol.

Alcohol duty freeze extended for six months, Treasury ministers tells MPs

James Cartlidge, a Treasury minister, has confirmed that the freeze on alcohol duty will be extended for a further six months, to 1 August 2023. In a statement to MPs he said:

Whilst new duty rates typically come in each year on the first of February, I can confirm that the chancellor will instead make his decision on future duty rates at spring budget 2023 to give businesses certainty and time to prepare.

To further support the industry, we are going further by confirming that if changes to duty are announced then they will not take effect until 1 August 2023.

This is to align with the date the historic forms of alcohol duties come into force and amounts to an effective six-month extension to the current duty freeze.

There are further details in the Treasury’s press release.


Rishi Sunak holding a meeting with the Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas. They spoke as they took a flight from the JEF meeting in Latvia to Tallinn, Estonia.
Rishi Sunak holding a meeting with the Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas. They spoke as they took a flight from the JEF meeting in Latvia to Tallinn, Estonia. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

When Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory Brexiter, complained about a Russian judge blocking UK government policy (see 4.36pm), he seemed to be making a general point about the background of the judges who sit on the European court of human rights, rather than a statement of fact about the Rwanda hearing. The identity of the judge who granted the injunction against the UK was not revealed, but at the time the Telegraph said the judge who took the decision was understood to be either the representative from Hungary or a judge from Liechtenstein.

Russia did used to nominate a judge to the court because it used to be a member of the Council of Europe, which oversees its operation. After the invasion of Ukraine this year Russia was expelled from the council. But its judge was entitled to sit on the court until September, the Telegraph reported.


Braverman says 'nothing off table' when asked if new asylum bill will allow human rights law to be overruled

Greg Smith (Con) also asks for an assurance that the asylum legislation coming next year will contain a “notwithstanding” clause to allow the Human Rights Act to be ignored. He is the third Tory to make this request. Sir Bill Cash (see 4.31pm) and Sir Edward Leigh have already made the same point.

Braverman says the government will pass legislation that is robust. As for what it will contain, she says “nothing is off the table”.

A “notwithstanding” clause of the kind demanded by Smith and others would have the same effect as the “notwithstanding” legislation proposed by the Tory MP Jonathan Gullis in a 10-minute rule speech last week. Sixty-seven Tory MPs voted in favour.

UPDATE: Here is the question from Leigh, which came a few minutes before Smith’s. Leigh said:

While this judgment is welcome, it won’t solve the problem. Not just because of the relatively few numbers that can be deported to Rwanda, but because each case must be fought individually and human rights lawyers will fight every single case individually.

That is the problem. Surely the only serious way we can deter migration across the Channel is to have the legal right not just to process people when they arrive on our shores, but to arrest them and detain them until their asylum application is dealt with.

If it’s the Human Rights Act that stops us doing it, can we not apply in our new legislation for a notwithstanding clause to deal with that problem?


John Whittingdale, the Tory former cabinet minister, said he visited Rwanda recently and saw the accommodation available for refugees. He says the Rwandans were clear that they expected asylum seekers to be able to get jobs. So the policy is moral, he says.

Stella Creasy (Lab) asks if children will be deported to Rwanda.

Braverman says families are not subject to the policy.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory former business secretary, says once parliament has made up its mind, it should not be possible for it to be overuled by “a Russian judgen woken from a bar to issue an injunction”. He is referring to the European court of human rights.

Braverman welcomes Rees-Mogg’s argument.

The SNP’s Alison Thewliss says that just because a policy has been ruled lawful, that does not make it right. She says slaver, apartheid and rape within marriage were both once legal, but that did not mean they were right.

UPDATE: Thewliss said:

This is a dark day indeed with this judgment. And particularly when the home Secretary comes here to imply that having morals is fanciful.

On the SNP benches we will never get behind this policy. Not in our name.

I would remind people in this house that slavery, apartheid and marital rape were all lawful at one time, but none of them were right.


Sir Bill Cash (Con) urges Braverman to introduce “nothwithstanding” legislation, allowing the UK government to go ahead with its deportation policy regardless of what international human rights law says.

Braverman welcomes what Cash says. But she says the European court of human rights has not said the government’s policy is illegal. But it did rule against the removal of some individuals, she says.

Braverman is replying to Cooper.

She claims Labour is not being honest. It won’t even say if it would repeal the legislation making entry to the UK without proper authorisation illegal, she says.

What Labour would do would replace a crisis of illegal immigration with a crisis of legal migration, she says. It would be an open borders policy by the back door.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, is responding to Braverman. She says if Braverman thinks the court judgment is a vindication of her policy, she has not read it properly. She says the court decided that the decision-making in relation to the eight cases considered was “so flawed and chaotic” that the decisions had to be quashed. She says in some cases mistakes were as basic as names being mixed up.

She asks how many people might be sent to Rwanda. She says Rwanda has said it could take 200 people, a tiny fraction of the number arriving in the UK on small boats.

And she asks how much it will cost. The UK government has already given £120m to Rwanda, plus a further payment of £20m, she says.


Braverman says she wants to deliver Rwanda deportation policy 'at scale as soon as possible' following court judgment

In the Commons Suella Braverman, the home secretary, is making a statement about immigration policy.

She says the UK is a kind and generous country. Since 2015 it has welcomed 450,000 people to this country through safe and legal routes.

But people do not want open borders, she says. She says people used to be told that those holding these views were “immoral”, and even today, she claims, there is “unhealthy contempt for anyone who wants controlled migration”.

She says the government cannot tolerate people coming to the UK illegally. That is why it negotiated the partnership with Rwanda for asylum seekers to be taken there.

She says there is a myth that the permanent secretary at the Home Office opposed the policy and said was poor value for money. That is not true, she says. But she accepts that the permanent secretary said the evidence was not available to show it would serve as a deterrent.

She says today’s high court judgment has vindicated her strategy.

She says she spoke to her Rwandan counterpart today, and they both confirmed their commitment “to deliver this partnership at scale as soon as possible”.

She urges Labour to back the plan.


Government sues PPE firm linked to Michelle Mone for breach of contract

The government has issued civil legal proceedings against PPE Medpro, the PPE firm linked to the Tory peer Michelle Mone, PA Media reports. PA says:

The firm said the case over the supply of sterile gowns would be “rigorously defended” and accused the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) of a “cynical attempt to recover money from suppliers” who acted in good faith.

The DHSC said it had issued breach of contract proceedings over the 2020 deal on the supply of gowns.

A statement issued by the firm said: “PPE Medpro will demonstrate to the courts that we supplied our gowns to the correct specification, on time and at a highly competitive price. The case will also show the utter incompetence of DHSC to correctly procure and specify PPE during the emergency procurement period. This will be the real legacy of the court case and it will be played out in the public arena for all to see.”

PA understands the dispute relates to the contract price of the gowns, plus the cost of storing and disposing of them.

But PPE Medpro claimed the department was fighting over “contract technicalities” such as whether gowns were single or double-bagged because it had “vastly over-ordered” protective equipment.

The firm said it had made “numerous attempts at mediation with DHSC” but “they didn’t want to settle”.

The PPE Medpro statement said: “Over a two month period, July through to end of August 2020, PPE Medpro supplied DHSC with 25 million sterile gowns. The gowns were manufactured to the correct quality, standards and specification set out in the contract, delivered on time and at a price that was 50% of what DHSC had been paying at the time.”

But “by the end of 2020 it was clear that DHSC has vastly over ordered and held five years supply of PPE across the seven major categories including gowns” and because of limited lifespans for products “it was clear that the DHSC would never be able to use all the PPE they procured”, the statement said.

“Consultants were then brought in to pick over all the contracts and fight product not on quality but on contract technicalities that were never envisaged at the time of contract.”

A DHSC spokesman said: “We can confirm we have commenced legal proceedings in the high court against PPE Medpro Limited for breach of contract regarding gowns delivered under a contract dated June 26, 2020. We do not comment on matters that are the subject of ongoing legal proceedings.”

Tories no longer ahead of Labour on party most trusted to grow economy, poll suggests

The polling company Ipsos has published its latest monthly political monitor report. Among the many charts in it is one showing that the Conservatives no longer lead Labour on which party is most trusted on being able to grow the economy. Labour has had a healthy lead for some time on the party most trusted to cut the cost of living. But on growing the economy, both parties are now level.

The chart shows that in September the Tories briefly leapt well ahead on this measure. That was after they elected a new leader, Liz Truss, who said her main priority was promoting growth.

Now the party has fallen back on the same measure – almost certainly as a result of voters seeing what actually happened when Truss tried to achieve this.

Polling on economic issues
Polling on economic issues Photograph: Ipsos

The same poll suggests that Labour goes into Christmas with a 26-point lead over the Tories.

Voting intention
Voting intention Photograph: Ipsos


The SNP says in its response to the high court judgment that the Rwanda deportation policy is “deeply immoral”, regardless of whether it is legal or not. This is from Alison Thewliss, the SNP’s home affairs spokesperson at Westminster.

Whether legal or not, this move is deeply immoral and will only serve to endanger those the UK government has a duty to protect.

Those fleeing war, famine and oppression deserve and need our full support. Instead the Tories have chosen to make scapegoats of desperate people in a disgusting attempt to cover up their own domestic policy failings.

Countries like the UK should act as a beacon of hope and serve as a positive example to the rest of the world. Sadly that is no longer how the UK is viewed, and so it falls upon an independent Scotland to show a just and humanitarian welcome to whoever needs it, whenever they need it.

Colin Yeo, an immigration lawyer, has posted a detailed commentary on the high court Rwanda judgment on his Free Movement migration policy blog. Here is his conclusion:

Whatever happens, it is unlikely that more than a relatively small number would ever be removed, though. Firstly, Rwanda has indicated so far that it will accept a few hundred per year. That figure could rise or further deals might be reached but there is no sign of either eventuality at present. Secondly, the Home Office is pretty terrible at removing anyone anywhere at the moment. On past form, the idea that the Home Office can remove sufficient number of people to Rwanda to act as a deterrent to others seems implausible, although not perhaps completely impossible. Over 85,000 people have arrived in the UK to claim asylum in the twelve months ending September 2022.

A lot of time, energy and money has been put into this Rwanda plan. It has acted as a distraction from the asylum backlog and other issues. Yet it seems to have escaped everyone’s notice that removals of actual failed asylum seekers to their own countries has reached an historic low. A total of 113 failed asylum seekers were removed in the whole of 2021 (see Returns – Summary Tables, table Ret_05, published 26 May 2022). The numbers have risen slightly since then, but not a lot. Why put all this effort into removing a small number of genuine refugees to Rwanda rather than actual failed asylum seekers back to their own countries?


Sunak urges unions to do 'everything they can' to minimise impact of health strikes

And here are some more lines from Rishi Sunak’s broadcast interview in Riga.

  • Sunak urged the unions to do everything they could to minimise the impact of this week’s health strikes, if they were not willing to call them off. He said:

I’m really disappointed to see that the unions are calling these strikes, particularly at Christmas, particularly when it has such an impact on people’s day-to-day lives with the disruption it causes and the impact on their health.

I would urge them to keep considering whether these strikes are really necessary and do everything they can to alleviate the impact it’s going to have on people.

The government, for its part, is being responsible in putting in place contingency measures to make sure we are well prepared to handle the disruption that is coming.

In an article for the Mail on Sunday yesterday, Steve Barclay, the health secretary, claimed that “some unions representing ambulance crews are being less than cooperative in negotiations about staff cover on strike days”.

  • Sunak said the door was “always open” for the unions to meet ministers – but he seemed to rule out holding new talks on pay. He said:

Our door is always open - the health secretary has been very clear with that - of course we are always happy to sit down and talk to people to try and work through difficult challenges like this, that’s always been the case.

But, on pay, he stressed the importance of the “independent process” (having pay review bodies make recommendations). He also said the government needed to control inflation by having “a responsible and fair approach to pay”.

  • He implicitly criticised Jeremy Clarkson for what he said about the Duchess of Sussex in his Sun column last week. But he did not accept that the Clarkson column showed that Britain was a racist country. Asked about Clarkson’s comments, he said:

I think for everyone in public life, language matters. You asked about racism. Now, I’ve seen some of the things that have been said. I absolutely don’t believe that Britain is a racist country. And I’d hope that as our nation’s first British Asian prime minister, when I say that it carries some weight.

Rishi Sunak speaking to the media at the JEF meeting in Riga.
Rishi Sunak speaking to the media at the JEF meeting in Riga. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/AFP/Getty Images


Sunak claims Rwanda policy is 'common sense position' backed by 'vast majority of public' - despite polls saying otherwise

Rishi Sunak has welcomed the high court judgment saying the government’s Rwanda deportation policy for asylum seekers is legal. In a clip for broadcasters from Riga, he said the policy was a “common sense position” supported by “the vast majority of the British public”. He said:

Well, I welcome the decision of the court today. We’ve always maintained that our Rwanda policy is lawful, and I’m pleased that was confirmed today and this is just one part of our plan to tackle illegal migration.

Last week, I set out a very comprehensive approach to stopping the boats from coming to the UK. It’s not going to be easy and we’re not going to be able to do it overnight.

But I’m confident that with the steps I laid out last week, we really can get to grips with illegal migration, because I think what we all want to see, and what I want to deliver, is a system whereby if you come to the UK illegally, you will not have the right to stay and we will be able to return you to your own country if it’s safe or a safe alternative like Rwanda.

That’s the common sense position, I think, of the vast majority of the British public. It’s my position, and that’s what I want to deliver as prime minister.

In fact, ever since the Rwanda policy was announced in April, public opinion on it has always been divided. One more recent poll suggests that an alternative policy for dealing with small boats – making it easier for people to apply for asylum in the UK from overseas (broadly something Labour favours) – is more popular.

Really interesting polling from @YouGov. Just 10% of people think the Rwanda plan is the best way to deal with the channel boats issue. Tories/Lab supporters split on what the right approach would be. pic.twitter.com/SrncMB9n4h

— Sam Freedman (@Samfr) December 19, 2022

Here is some comment on the Rwanda high court judgment from lawyers and journalists on Twitter.

Danny Shaw, the former BBC home affairs correspondent, says the judgment made “gloomy reading” for opponents of the Rwanda scheme.

The 438-paragraph Rwanda asylum judgment makes gloomy reading for opponents of the scheme.

On every point on which it is argued the scheme is unlawful the two judges slam the door firmly shut.

— Danny Shaw (@DannyShawNews) December 19, 2022

There were 12 points challenging legality of Rwanda scheme - all dismissed.

High Court accepts there are restrictions on free speech but “the advantages that accrue to the Rwandan authorities from the [deal] provide a real incentive against any mistreatment”.

— Danny Shaw (@DannyShawNews) December 19, 2022

High Court rejected UNHCR @Refugees concerns saying their evidence “carries no special weight”.

Court also said no need for @ukhomeoffice to seek Parliament’s approval for Rwanda deal because powers were “available” under legislation brought in under Tony Blair in 2004.

— Danny Shaw (@DannyShawNews) December 19, 2022

High Court also rejected complaints @ukhomeoffice Rwanda deal was procedurally unfair saying “evidence before us does not appear to demonstrate that the arrangements prevent access to justice”.

It said @AsylumAid legal challenge on the point was “unnecessary”.

— Danny Shaw (@DannyShawNews) December 19, 2022

Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister, thinks further appeals will hold up Rwanda deportations until the election, and that ultimately no asylum seeker will ever be sent there.

I remain of the view that nobody will ever be sent to Rwanda for their asylum claims to be processed there. But I have been wrong before!

— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) December 19, 2022

There will probably be appeals to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court after that, and potentially to the European Court of Human Rights after that. Unless the govt manages to operate the scheme in the meantime I can't see those cases being resolved before the next election.

— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) December 19, 2022

And if the domestic appeals are resolved by the next election (which is possible) and if the govt ignores the European Court/it rules the scheme is lawful, the flights will still be subject to individual legal challenges along the lines of deportation flights.

— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) December 19, 2022

Ultimately, the government benefits more from Schrödinger Rwanda Scheme, a beautiful idea thwarted by lefty lawyers and pesky judges, than an actual functioning Rwanda Scheme.

— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) December 19, 2022

The govt is probably looking at this as "if we just manage to get a handful of asylum seekers to Rwanda before the election that's a big victory". What a sad, morally bankrupt point this govt has got to for that to be their focus.

— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) December 19, 2022

Colin Yeo, an immigration barrister, thinks some deportations will eventually take place.

I'm pretty sure some poor souls will end up on a flight there at some point.

— Colin Yeo (@ColinYeo1) December 19, 2022

And Sam Freedman, a commentator and fellow at the Institute for Government thinktank, thinks what the judgment says about the need for cases to be considered carefully could limit the scope for people to be sent to Rwanda in large numbers.

I think in practice this means they could deport some people to Rwanda (barring appeals etc...) but not at the scale required to make it a deterrent because each case will be challenged. https://t.co/R0Mpdn1amb

— Sam Freedman (@Samfr) December 19, 2022

Sunak urges Gary Neville to stick to football after pundit's low pay outburst prompts Tory protests

Rishi Sunak has joined other senior Tories who have criticised the football pundit and former England player Gary Neville for his attack on the government’s nurses’ pay policy yesterday.

During his World Cup commentary, Neville suggested there were similarities between the government’s approach to nurses and the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar. He accused ministers of “demonising rail workers, ambulance workers and terrifyingly, nurses”.

In an interview with the Daily Mail’s Jason Groves, who was invited to accompany Sunak on his trip to Latvia, Sunak was asked about Neville’s comments. He replied:

I think when most people are tuning in to watch Gary Neville they want to hear about the football and watch the football. They don’t want to discuss politics.

Sunak also said that he came from an NHS family and that as chancellor and PM he had prioritised the health service. “During Covid when there was a pay freeze in the rest of the public sector, the one area that got special treatment was the NHS. I did that as chancellor,” he said.

Other Tories have been more blunt. This is from Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary.

Totally right from @NJ_Timothy. It is beyond ridiculous that @GNev2 is given free rein by @ITVSport to overtly politicise a major sporting event. Quite apart from the fact every nurse is receiving a pay rise of £1400, to compare workers’ rights in Qatar with the UK is grotesque. https://t.co/cAVqLU8nO5

— Simon Clarke MP (@SimonClarkeMP) December 18, 2022
Rishi Sunak at the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) summit in Latvia today.
Rishi Sunak at the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) summit in Latvia today. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/PA


Refugee charities say high court judgment on Rwanda policy 'deeply disappointing'

Charities that work with refugees have reacted with alarm to the high court judgment on the Rwanda policy.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said:

This bitterly disappointing decision draws attention to the limitations of domestic law when it comes to the UK meeting its obligations under international law.

We remain gravely concerned that the government’s Rwanda deal seriously undermines international refugee law and rides roughshod over the rights of people seeking asylum in the UK.

Katy Chakrabortty, head of policy and advocacy at Oxfam, said:

The high court’s ruling is deeply disappointing. But just because something is legal, does not make it humane.

The government’s plans to offshore our asylum responsibilities to Rwanda are cruel and immoral, and will do nothing to tackle the issue of dangerous small boat crossings. We need a reversal of this barbaric policy, and the creation of more safe and legal routes for those fleeing conflict and persecution to the UK.

Josie Naughton, the CEO of Choose Love, which helped to fund the claim by Asylum Aid (one of the various cases considered by the high court in its judgment), said:

Today is a dark moment for upholding human rights in the UK. Hostility has come at the expense of compassion, and the country is turning its back on the principle that all should have rights to live in freedom and in safety. Today’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent for evading international and moral commitments towards those seeking asylum.

And Beth Gardiner-Smith, the CEO of Safe Passage International, said:

Today’s decision is deeply disappointing, and our thoughts are with all of those who are at risk of deportation under this cruel policy. As well as being immoral, this plan won’t work in practice to deter people from making dangerous journeys across the Channel as we have seen this year. Instead, it will inflict huge misery and suffering on refugees who have already experienced significant trauma.


Labour and Lib Dems urge government to abandon 'unworkable, unethical, expensive' Rwanda policy

Responding to the high court judgment, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the government should abandon the Rwanda policy because it was unworkable and expensive. She said in a statement:

The Rwanda scheme is a damaging distraction from the urgent action the government should be taking to go after the criminal gangs and sort out the asylum system. It is unworkable, unethical, extortionately expensive.

Ministers have already written a £140m cheque to Rwanda without the policy even starting, with millions more promised even though Home Office officials say there’s no evidence it’ll provide a deterrent and it risks making trafficking worse.

The Rwandan government has said it can only process 200 people a year – or 0.5% of Channel crossings this year.

And the Liberal Democrats have also renewed their call for the government to abandon the policy, on the same grounds. This is from Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dems’ home affair spokesperson:

Whether or not it is lawful, the Conservatives’ Rwanda asylum plan is immoral, ineffective and incredibly costly for taxpayers.

It will do nothing to stop dangerous Channel crossings or combat people smuggling and human trafficking; instead it will give criminal gangs more power and profits.

The Conservatives are betraying the UK’s proud tradition of providing sanctuary to refugees fleeing war and persecution, and breaching our commitments under the 1951 UN refugee convention.


Braverman says she wants to press on with Rwanda policy 'as soon as possible' in light of court judgment

Suella Braverman, the home secretary, says she wants to press on with the Rwanda deportation policy “as soon as possible” in the light of today’s court judgment. She made the comment in one of several tweets on the ruling, saying: “My focus remains on moving ahead with the policy as soon as possible and we stand ready to defend against any further legal challenge.”

Our ground-breaking migration partnership with Rwanda will provide individuals relocated with support to build new lives there, while disrupting the business model of people smuggling gangs putting lives at risk through dangerous and illegal small boat crossings. 1/3

— Suella Braverman MP (@SuellaBraverman) December 19, 2022

We have always maintained that this policy is lawful and today the High Court has upheld this. 2/3

— Suella Braverman MP (@SuellaBraverman) December 19, 2022

I am committed to making this Partnership work – my focus remains on moving ahead with the policy as soon as possible and we stand ready to defend against any further legal challenge. 3/3

— Suella Braverman MP (@SuellaBraverman) December 19, 2022

Braverman notoriously told an event at the Tory party conference that having a Telegraph front page showing a plane with asylum seekers on it leaving the UK for Rwanda was her “dream” and “obsession”.


Steve Barclay challenged about state of NHS by mother of young patient during hospital visit

Steve Barclay, the health secretary, was reprimanded by a mother during a hospital visit this morning for suggesting that Covid was mainly to blame for problems with the health service.

Barclay and other ministers have repeatedly argued that the problems facing the NHS are to a large extent caused by the impact of the pandemic.

But when Sarah Pinnington-Auld met Barclay as he visited as he visited King’s UCollege hospital in London, she told him she was not convinced by this argument.

As Sky News reports, Pinnington-Auld, whose three-year-old daughter has cystic fibrosis and was being treated in the hospital, said:

We were short of doctors, we were short of beds going into the pandemic so I think it is really wrong to blame it on the pandemic.

She also said that government should be spending more on social care, and that she was concerned that Britain was moving closer to a privatised healthcare model like America’s, where the rich would get a much better service than the poor.

According to Sky News, Pinnington-Auld has in the past expressed her support for Labour on social media.


Priti Patel says court judgment has vindicated her 'world-leading' Rwanda policy

Priti Patel, the former home secretary who negotiated the deal with Rwanda for asylum seekers arriving in the UK to be deported there, said in a statement on Twitter that this morning’s court judgment vindicates her “world-leading” policy.

I welcome the High Court ruling my world-leading Economic & Migration Partnership with Rwanda is lawful. No single policy will stop the Channel crossings, but this important policy will save lives, help break the business model of the criminal gangs & prevent asylum abuse.

— Priti Patel MP (@pritipatel) December 19, 2022

Why high court ruled Rwanda policy not incompatible with refugee convention

One of the issues considered by the high court was whether the government’s Rwanda policy was incompatible with the UK’s obligations under the UN refugee convention, as many campaigners have claimed. Here is paragraph 121 from the full judgment, which explains why this argument was rejected.

Mr Drabble KC [who was representing two of the asylum seekers threatened with deportation] submitted that the refugee convention imposes an obligation on contracting states to determine all asylum claims made, on their merits. We disagree. There is no such obligation on the face of the convention. The obligation that is imposed is the one at article 33, not to expel or return a refugee to a place where his life or freedom would be threatened by reason of any of the characteristics that the convention protects. Mr Drabble’s submission was that an obligation to determine asylum claims would be consistent with the spirit and purpose of the convention and could therefore reasonably be assumed. Again, we disagree. Obligations in international treaties are formulated with considerable care. They reflect balances struck following detailed negotiations between states parties. An obligation to determine every asylum claim on its merits would be a significant addition to the refugee convention. There is no reason to infer the existence of an obligation of that order; to do so would go well beyond the limits of any notion of judicial construction of an international agreement; and the protection that is necessary if the purpose of the convention is to be met, is provided by article 33.


And the Migration Observatory, a group at Oxford University that studies migration policy, says that just because the Rwanda policy has been judged lawful, that does not mean it will be effective.

We had a pretty good idea that this was coming. There’s an important difference between the policy being judged to be legal, and it being effective at its stated objective of deterrence of small boat arrivals, which is not proven at this stage. https://t.co/dAKvft5bcK

— MigrationObservatory (@MigObs) December 19, 2022

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has posted a series of tweets saying it will continue to oppose the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda regardless of today’s high court judgment.

🚨BREAKING: The High Court has ruled govt's inhumane Rwanda plan lawful - disappointing news, but our resistance does NOT stop here.

The movement for solidarity, care & welcome has always been fought on all fronts. We must continue to come together and win. 1/

— JCWI (@JCWI_UK) December 19, 2022

We know that people coming together to oppose these flights is powerful.

Together with @FreefromTorture & thousands of people up and down the country, we’ve successfully urged airlines to pull out of government’s inhumane Rwanda scheme. https://t.co/7QerMrhUpz 2/

— JCWI (@JCWI_UK) December 19, 2022

And we know that people will continue to use their voices & bodies to fight against government’s Rwanda plan.

People will not stand by and watch this government treat refugees like human cargo. @StpDeportations https://t.co/pBwI1N0cLK 3/

— JCWI (@JCWI_UK) December 19, 2022

The Refugee Council has said it is “very disappointed” by the high court judgment on the Rwanda policy. In a statement, Enver Solomon, its chief executive, said:

We are very disappointed in the outcome of this case. If the government moves ahead with these harmful plans, it would damage the UK’s reputation as a country that values human rights, and undermine our commitment to provide safety to those fleeing conflict and oppression, as enshrined in the 1951 refugee convention.

Treating people who are in search of safety like human cargo and shipping them off to another country is a cruel policy that will cause great human suffering. The scheme is wrong in principle and unworkable in practice. The possibility of being sent off to Rwanda is causing huge distress to those we work with, including young people who are becoming extremely anxious and in some cases self-harming.

It is a hugely expensive policy that is unlikely to reach the scale claimed by the government. The Home Office’s own evidence shows that deterrence measures such as this simply don’t work – they just force people to take ever more dangerous journeys. It also poses serious safeguarding risks, particularly for children and vulnerable individuals.

Instead of outsourcing our international commitment to provide safe haven to those fleeing for their lives – including people from Ukraine and Afghanistan – we should be focusing on operating an orderly, humane and fair asylum system, and developing safe routes such as humanitarian visas.


Here is our story on the high court judgment, from my colleagues Rajeev Syal and Diane Taylor.

Sending asylum seekers to Rwanda 'consistent with refugee convention and Human Rights Act', says high court

And here is the key quote from the summary of the judgment.

The court has concluded that, it is lawful for the government to make arrangements for relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda and for their asylum claims to be determined in Rwanda rather than in the United Kingdom. On the evidence before this court, the government has made arrangements with the government of Rwanda which are intended to ensure that the asylum claims of people relocated to Rwanda are properly determined in Rwanda. In those circumstances, the relocation of asylum seekers to Rwanda is consistent with the refugee convention and with the statutory and other legal obligations on the government including the obligations imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998.



These are from Joshua Rozenberg, the legal commentator, on the high court judgment. He says the court said the Home Office did not properly consider the circumstances of eight people facing deportation, but that the policy itself is lawful.

Rwanda: High Court says former Home Secretary Priti Patel failed to consider individual circumstances of the eight individual asylum-seekers who challenged her policy. Their cases must be reconsidered. But the policy of sending asylum-seekers to Rwanda is lawful in itself.

— Joshua Rozenberg (@JoshuaRozenberg) December 19, 2022

Rwanda summary of judgment: The court has concluded that,it is lawful for the government to make arrangements for relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda and for their asylum claims to be determined in Rwanda rather than in the United Kingdom….

— Joshua Rozenberg (@JoshuaRozenberg) December 19, 2022

On the evidence before this court, the government has made arrangements with the government of Rwanda which are intended to ensure that the asylum claims of people relocated to Rwanda are properly determined in Rwanda.

— Joshua Rozenberg (@JoshuaRozenberg) December 19, 2022

In those circumstances, the relocation of asylum seekers toRwanda is consistent with the Refugee Convention and with the statutory and other legal obligations on the government including the obligations imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998…

— Joshua Rozenberg (@JoshuaRozenberg) December 19, 2022

Government plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda are lawful, high court rules

PA Media has just snapped this.

Government plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda are lawful, the high court has ruled.

I will post more on this when I get it.

The ruling is likely to be appealed, so this won’t be the end of the matter, but this still looks like a significant win for the government.


Hunt says next budget to take place on Wednesday 15 March

One of the many peculiar features of 2022 was that although the Treasury made multiple budget-style announcements, including Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget, we have not had a proper budget all year. In March, when Rishi Sunak was chancellor, he delivered a spring statement, not a budget. And Jeremy Hunt’s most recent tax and spending announcement was formally billed as an autumn statement.

But we will get a formal budget in the spring, Hunt has announced. In a written statement, the chancellor said:

Today I can inform the house that I have asked the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to prepare a forecast for 15 March 2023 to accompany a spring budget.

This forecast, in addition to the forecast that took place in November 2022, will fulfil the obligation for the OBR to produce at least two forecasts in a financial year, as is required by legislation.

This will be the first formal budget since October 2021.


Labour has renewed its call for the government to open talks with the health unions on pay. Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow work and pensions secretary, told Times Radio this morning:

I think everybody is deeply concerned about NHS staff on strike and the impact that will have on patient care. That is why we want these strikes averted.

That is why it is incumbent upon ministers to actually engage now in a meaningful negotiation in order to avoid these strikes.

The buck stops with Rishi Sunak and his government. They’re the ones who can stop these strikes by engaging in a meaningful negotiation about what is a fair settlement for NHS staff.

NHS faces 'incredibly challenging and disrupted week' because of strikes, says health leader

Negotiations between ambulance service leaders and unions are still continuing over exactly what services will be maintained during Wednesday’s strike in England and Wales, the interim chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, told BBC Breakfast this morning.

NHS Providers represents NHS trusts, and Cordery said talks were taking place at national level and local level.

Asked if people would have to make their own way to hospital, she replied:

If someone has a life and limb emergency, they should call 999. And if it’s not that kind of emergency, they will be told to seek different advice.

If they think they’ve got the kind of emergency where they would usually call 111, then they should do that, or they should consult a GP or pharmacist. They must use the usual routes available to them and take that advice. There may well be alternative advice available to them that wouldn’t ordinarily be the case.

So perhaps they will be advised to get themselves to hospital, but they should wait to seek that medical advice.

Cordery also said it would be an “incredibly challenging and disrupted week” for the NHS because there was another strike by nurses too. She told BBC Breakfast:

This is going to be an incredibly challenging and disrupted week, not only because we have the ambulance service coming out on strike across nearly every region, but also because we’ve got these sequential strikes.

So we’ve got nurses’ industrial action on Tuesday, and then ambulance services on Wednesday, and I think one will impact the other.


Sunak arrives in Latvia for summit with fellow leaders from JEF military partnership

Rishi Sunak has touched down in the Latvian capital, where he is meeting northern European allies to discuss countering Russian aggression, PA Media reports. PA says:

The prime minister landed in snowy Riga at 11.20am local time, stepping out of the plane into a gusty -4C.

He will urge fellow leaders of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) to stand firm in their support for Ukraine, after announcing a major new artillery package for the war-torn nation.

He will continue his whistlestop tour by flying to Estonia later on Monday, where he will meet British troops and sign a new technology partnership.

Here is the No 10 news release about the visit. And here is my colleague Jessica Elgot’s overnight preview story:

Rishi Sunak getting off his plane at Riga international airport in Latvia this morning.
Rishi Sunak getting off his plane at Riga international airport in Latvia this morning. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters


Union leaders dismiss chances of talks leading to ambulance strike being called off, blaming government intransigence

Good morning. We’re in the final week before Christmas, and the strikes affecting public services are set to get even more serious. Last week’s strike by the Royal College of Nursing was unprecedented, because the RCN had never called a strike before, but ministers fear that a strike by ambulance staff in England and Wales on Wednesday could be even more serious because of the impact it will have on patients needing emergency care.

As Jessica Elgot and Andrew Gregory report in their overnight story, Steve Barclay, the health secretary, has signalled that he is open to further talks in the hope of averting this week’s strike.

But this morning the leaders of Britain’s two biggest unions, Unison and Unite, which represent ambulance staff, have played down the prospect of any meaningful talks happening, saying the government’s refusal to discuss pay is making discussion pointless.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Sharon Graham, the Unite general secretary, said it was Barclay himself who was holding the country to ransom. She said:

Look at Scotland. The government there came back to the negotiating table, made a new offer and the strikes were cancelled. Yet in England they refuse to negotiate a new deal with the unions or go back to the pay review body.

It’s Steve Barclay who is holding the country to ransom. He will have to carry the can if patients suffer because he thinks this is his Thatcher moment.

And on the Today programme this morning Christina McAnea, the Unison general secretary, said ministers were being impossible. She said:

The government has been completely intransigent here. We’ve been calling on them for weeks and weeks to talk to us about this, to actually sit down and have a proper discussion before we try and resolve this dispute, and they have adamantly refused to do that.

I don’t know how much stronger myself, or Pat Cullen [the RCN general secretary] or Gary Smith of the GMB [need to be] – all of us are saying the same thing, we are prepared to talk to you, but they will not talk to us about the elephant in the room, which is pay.

McAnea said she last met Barclay herself five weeks ago, for about 15 minutes. She said there was “no trust left” between unions and the government and that, for Wednesday’s ambulance strike to be called off, ministers would have to promise to open negotiations on pay. She said:

It has be a very firm commitment. There is no trust left between us and the government. They would have to come up with something more that was more than just ‘Let’s talk about this’ for us to call off the strike on Wednesday.

Of course, the ambulance strike is not the only public service strike coming this week. Here is the advent calendar of strikes for this month.


Here is the agenda for the day.

10.30am: The high court delivers judgments in legal challenges to the government’s Rwanda deportation policy.

Morning: Rishi Sunak arrives in Riga, Latvia, for a meeting of leaders of the Joint Expeditionary Force, the UK-led defence group mostly made up of Nordic and Baltic countries. Later he will go to Estonia to meet British troops stationed there.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

2.30pm: Suella Braverman, the home secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

I’ll try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com.



Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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