Robert Jenrick’s resignation letter in full as immigration minister quits over Rwanda plan

Robert Jenrick told Rishi Sunak ‘The fortunes of the Conservative Party at the next general election are at stake’

Barney Davis
Wednesday 06 December 2023 20:05 GMT
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Tories face 'electoral oblivion' if they fail on new Rwanda legislation, says Braverman

Robert Jenrick’s shock resignation has plunged Rishi Sunak’s leadership into further chaos after the prime minister failed to appease Tory right-wingers with his emergency Rwanda legislation.

Home Secretary James Cleverly unveiled a bill in the Commons to “disapply” the UK Human Rights Act in a bid to stop British judges blocking the deportation of asylum seekers.

But the Sunak government could not head off a major revolt by the right of the party after choosing not to opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Jenrick said the small boats crisis was doing “untold damage” to the country and the Government needed to place “national interests highly contested interpretations of international law”.

Below is his resignation letter in full:

Robert Jenrick says he has strong disagreements with the government’s policy

“It is with great sadness that I have written to the Prime Minister to tender my resignation as Minister for Immigration. I cannot continue in my position when I have such strong disagreements with the direction of the Government’s policy on immigration.

“As you know, I have been pushing for the strongest possible piece of emergency legislation to ensure that under the Rwanda policy we remove as many small boat arrivals, as swiftly as possible to generate the greatest deterrent effect.

“This stems from my firmly held position that the small boats crisis is a national emergency that is doing untold damage to our country, and the only way we will be able to stop the boats completely is by urgently introducing a major new deterrent.

“I have therefore consistently advocated for a clear piece of legislation that severely limits the opportunities for domestic and foreign courts to block or undermine the effectiveness of the policy.

“One of the great advantages of our unwritten constitution is the unfettered power of our sovereign parliament to create law. and that is a power we must take full advantage of.

“The Government has a responsibility to place our vital national interests above highly contested interpretations of international law.

“In our discussions on the proposed emergency legislation you have moved towards my position, for which I am grateful.

“Nevertheless. I am unable to take the currently proposed legislation through the Commons as I do not believe it provides us with the best possible chance of success.

“A Bill of the kind you are proposing is a triumph of hope over experience. The stakes for the country are too high for us not to pursue the stronger protections required to end the merry-go-round of legal challenges which risk paralysing the scheme and negating its intended deterrent.

“Reflecting on my time in the Home Office, I am proud of the improvements we have delivered together working alongside dedicated and capable civil servants. I am grateful to you for agreeing to much of my five-point plan to reduce net migration which, once implemented, will deliver the single largest reduction in legal migration ever.

“However, I refuse to be yet another politician who makes promises on immigration to the British public but does not keep them.

“This package must be implemented immediately via an emergency rules change and accompanied by significant additional reforms at the start of next year to ensure we meet the 2019 manifesto commitment that every single Conservative MP was elected upon. The consequences for housing, public services, economic productivity, welfare reform, community cohesion and, more fundamentally, for trust in democratic politics are all too serious for this totemic issue to be anything other than a primary focus for the Government.

“Together we have also made progress tackling illegal migration. Small boats arrivals are down by more than a third compared to last year, against a forecast of a forty per cent increase and an almost one hundred per cent rise in Italy in the same period.

“The deal we negotiated with Albania has led to a more than ninety per cent reduction in Albanians arriving illegally on small boats and has demonstrated that a fully functioning scheme with Rwanda will act as a powerful deterrent. For the first time we have developed a comprehensive upstream strategy to disrupt the organised immigration crime gangs in important countries including Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria and Turkey.

“This has made the United Kingdom a partner of choice to those who share a determination to tackle illegal migration and has led to record numbers of small boat equipment seizures, preventing thousands more people making the illegal, unnecessary and dangerous crossing. At home we have relentlessly focussed on removing the pull factors the United Kingdom.

“We have increased raids on illegal working by seventy per cent and returns of immigration offenders by over fifty per cent, transformed the asylum case-working system with a ten-fold increase in weekly decisions to eliminate the legacy backlog, and began closing hundreds of the farcical asylum hotels. Behind the scenes we have also instilled greater rigour in scrutinising visa applications which will tackle the equally concerning rise in non-small boat asylum claims.

“However, we said that we would stop the boats altogether. That is what the public rightly demands and expects of us. We must truly mean that we will do whatever it takes’ to deliver this commitment when we say so. This emergency legislation is the last opportunity to prove this, but in its current drafting it does not go far enough.

“You and I have been friends for a long time. In cabinet I have seen up close your hard work, dedication and the deep sense of public service that drives you every day. Against strong headwinds you have stabilised the country, showed leadership on the world stage and done much to improve the lives of millions of citizens across the United Kingdom, for which you deserve much greater recognition.

“This is not a decision I have arrived at lightly, but one born of principle and reached after careful consideration and many months of trying to convince you of the merits of my position.

“You will retain my full support on the backbenches even as I campaign on illegal and legal migration policy and the intersecting challenges of generating meaningful economic growth, solving the housing crisis and improving integration. The fortunes of the Conservative Party at the next general election are at stake.

“It has been an honour to serve in government for five Conservative Prime Ministers. I will continue to represent the interests of my constituents in Newark to whom I owe so much.

“Yours ever,

“Robert”

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