British government’s efforts to save its controversial deportation policy asylum seekers in Rwanda ” is attracting the attention of the White House, which wants to ensure that any revamped legislation does not undermine the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, according to two Biden administration officials.
“Certainly, everyone is keeping an eye on Northern Ireland,” said one senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
That a British immigration policy involving one-way flights to an East African country has implications for Northern Ireland is one of the strange, side effects of Britain’s membership to the European Union. European convention of human rightsan international agreement he helped draft after World War II.
And the fact that this would attract Washington’s attention is a testament to Northern Ireland’s sensitivity in the transatlantic relationship. President Biden, a proud Irish-American, has shown keen interest in Good Friday Agreementwhich was negotiated under the leadership of another Democratic president, Bill Clinton, and ended decades of sectarian strife.
Britain’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the Conservative government’s flagship immigration plan policy — which consists of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda so that their asylum application is processed and live there if their requests are granted – violated international and domestic human rights laws.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to press ahead with the plan regardless by enacting emergency legislation that would circumvent legal challenges, including those posed by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Some members of the right wing of his party – notably Suella Bravermanwhich, until recently, was house secretary – argued that Britain should simply withdraw from the convention. Mr Sunak fired Ms Braverman in a cabinet reshuffle last week, replacing her with a more moderate character, James Cleverly.
White House officials noted that just after his nomination, Mr. Cleverly said he did not think Britain would need to withdraw from the convention. Such a move, according to legal experts, would pose a problem direct threat to the Good Friday Agreementsince the treaty integrates the convention into Northern Irish law.
Yet even the government’s promise of new legislation could weaken the Good Friday Agreement, these experts say. The scope of Mr Sunak’s legislation is not yet clear. But one option would be for the government to seek to block the authority of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, which applies the convention, thereby preventing it from ruling on the legality of the asylum policy. British.
“In my view, that would constitute a violation of the convention,” said Catherine Barnard, professor and international law expert at the University of Cambridge, while adding that “obviously a deliberate violation is not as serious than withdrawing completely from the convention.” .”
Britain is seeking to renegotiate its treaty with Rwanda to include a binding commitment that it will not expel migrants sent by Britain – one of the court’s main concerns. But it remains unclear whether the new law will survive further legal challenges or the House of Lords, the unelected upper house of Parliament, which has the right to review legislation and could block it.
Mr Sunak is under intense pressure to stem the flow of asylum seekers making perilous Channel crossings in small boats. It is one of five goals he has set for his government and a hot topic with many people in the north and midlands of England who voted for the Conservative Party in 2019.
The issue threatens to divide the party between hard-liners like Ms. Braverman and more moderate figures, who warn that repudiating the convention would be tantamount to tarnish Britain’s international reputation. The agreement, which came into force in 1953, is between members of the Council of Europe, a human rights organization separate from the European Union, which Britain left in 2020.
The Irish government, which is party to the Good Friday Agreement, has been lobbying US officials over the risks of Britain leaving the convention. British diplomats said they were aware of US concerns, although they said the Biden administration had not raised the issue since the court ruling on Rwanda.
Indeed, they say, Americans have expressed curiosity about Rwandan politics, for which there is no equivalent in the United States. Like Mr Sunak, Mr Biden is grappling with illegal immigration on the eve of an election year.
Tensions over the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, have been an undercurrent in transatlantic relations since Mr. Biden became president. Earlier this year he pressed Mr Sunak to resolve the row with the European Union over post-Brexit trade deals for Northern Ireland. In February, Mr Sunak did so, signing the Windsor Frame with Brussels.
Clearly, relations have since improved. Mr Biden and Mr Sunak are closely aligned in their support for Israel in its war against Hamas and Ukraine in its war against Russia, although British officials are alarmed by signs of wavering support for the Ukraine in Congress.
The White House sent Vice President Kamala Harris to a artificial intelligence summit convened by Mr Sunak earlier this month. Some observers criticized the fact that Ms Harris had eclipsed Mr Sunak in introducing a decree on AI security signed by Mr. Biden the same week. But British officials said the order added to the seriousness of the meeting.
In a statement, the State Department said it would not comment on a hypothetical scenario in which Britain leaves the convention. But he added: “Our priority remains protecting the gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and preserving peace, stability and prosperity for the people of Northern Ireland. »