Tory MPs have called for a radical overhaul of the Human Rights Act as Whitehall insiders admitted Priti Patel’s plan to turn back boats carrying migrants would likely break existing law.
One Conservative MP said on Thursday that if the Government was “weak”, more people travelling across the Channel seeking asylum in Britain could die, while a second called for the entire piece of legislation to be scrapped.
Dominic Raab, the recently installed Justice Secretary, is planning reforms to the Human Rights Act, which incorporate into UK law the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998.
However, it remains unclear if the changes that are being sought would allow the Government to adopt hardline measures on tackling the arrival of small boats.
Ms Patel, the Home Secretary, is proposing a “turn back the boats” policy that would see vessels carrying migrants across the Channel escorted back towards the country they left from.
However, the policy has triggered a heated battle inside the Government amid fears that people on the boats could puncture them as UK vessels try to turn them around, meaning they would have to be rescued.
A senior government figure has warned that the policy itself could fall foul of existing laws, such as the Human Rights Act or obligations in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.
Internal government estimates also suggest that even if the controversial policy could be adopted, it would only be able to turn back around one per cent of boats crossing the Channel carrying migrants.