Ashfield MP Anderson and Bassetlaw MP Clarke-Smith resign senior Tory roles over Rwanda Bill

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Two Nottinghamshire Conservative MPs have quit their roles as party deputy chairmen so they can join rebels in opposing Rushi Sunak’s flagship Rwanda immigration plan.

In a joint resignation letter today (Tuesday, January 16) Ashfield MP Lee Anderson and Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith said that “whilst our main wish is to strengthen the legislation, this means that in order to vote for amendments we will therefore need to offer you our resignations from our rules”.

They said it was “important in terms of credibility that we are consistent” on arguing that safeguards must be put in place to ensure the Government’s flagship asylum policy is legally watertight.

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It comes as MPs voted 529 to 68, majority 461, to reject Conservative Sir Bill Cash’s changes to the Bill, which aimed to ensure UK and international law cannot be used to prevent or delay a person being removed to Rwanda.

Brendan Clarke-Smith and Lee AndersonBrendan Clarke-Smith and Lee Anderson
Brendan Clarke-Smith and Lee Anderson

Dozens of right-wing Conservative MPs have now signed the rebel amendments – which are being debated and voted on today in the House of Commons – aimed at toughening the bill and curtailing asylum seekers’ rights to appeal against deportation flights to Kigali.

The former Conservative immigration minister and Newark MP Robert Jenrick – who quit over the “weak” Rwanda bill and has led the rebel amendments – has also said he is prepared to vote against the government at Wednesday’s showdown vote.

However, any attempt by Mr Sunak to placate the rebels would be opposed by more moderate Tories, who are keen to protect the legislation against breaches of international law.

It comes as the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has concluded that the UK government’s new Rwanda bill is not compatible with international law following a legal assessment.