David Davis has become the latest senior Tory to attack Boris Johnson over the government’s controversial plan to send illegal immigrants to Rwanda.
The outspoken former Brexit secretary accused the prime minister of “moral delinquency” and said: “We are better than this – or at least we used to be.”
Johnson announced last week that the UK had struck a deal with Rwanda which will see those who entered the country illegally flown more than 4,000 miles to the autocratic east African country.
He claimed the policy is aimed at deterring asylum seekers risking their lives by trying to cross the Channel from France in small boats.
But the plans have been widely panned by opposition MPs, religious leaders and even some Tory MPs.
‘We are better than this’
Writing in The Times, Davis said the policy was “fraught with practical problems, beset by moral dilemmas and hamstrung by extortionate costs”.
He also questioned Johnson’s assertion that the policy is an example of the UK using the freedoms it has won by leaving the European Union.
He said: “Brexit was about taking back control. About asserting our own sovereignty and deciding our own destiny. The freedoms of Brexit should be about innovations justifying British exceptionalism on the basis of moral leadership, not moral delinquency.
“When it comes to international law and our obligations to UN conventions that we didn’t just sign up to but drafted and gifted to world. Largely for historical reasons, we are one of the five permanent members at the UN, we are a G7 state and we have a historic responsibility to Africa.
“We are better than this. Or at least, we used to be.”
Amid the criticism, Priti Patel has challenged those against her plan to send migrants to Rwanda to come up with a better idea to tackle small boat crossings.
Writing a joint article in The Times with Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta on Monday, the home secretary reiterated that her controversial plans were “bold and innovative” after religious leaders slammed the move.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby deemed the plans ungodly, while his counterpart in York also used his Easter sermon to deride the idea as “so depressing and distressing”.
‘Serious ethical questions’
But in the joint article, Patel and Biruta said: “We are taking bold and innovative steps and it’s surprising that those institutions that criticise the plans fail to offer their own solutions.”
Welby said there are “serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas”.
He said: “The details are for politics. The principle must stand the judgment of God, and it cannot. It cannot carry the weight of resurrection justice, of life conquering death. It cannot carry the weight of the resurrection that was first to the least valued, for it privileges the rich and strong.”
He was joined in his criticism by the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, who said: “We can do better than this.”
He added: “After all, there is in law no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker. It is the people who exploit them that we need to crack down on, not our sisters and brothers in their need. We don’t need to build more barriers and cower in the darkness of the shadows they create.”